CSU chancellor resigns over mishandling of sexual harassment allegations

Joseph Castro

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

California State University Chancellor Joseph Castro resigned on Thursday amid outcry over his handling of sexual harassment allegations against a former Fresno State administrator. 

The CSU Board of Trustees received Castro’s resignation during a closed session hearing on Thursday. Castro’s resignation took effect immediately. Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Steve Relyea will serve as acting chancellor until the CSU system names an interim chancellor.

“I have been honored to serve the California State University for more than eight years, including as its eighth chancellor, and the decision to resign is the most difficult of my professional life,” Castro said in a statement. “While I disagree with many aspects of recent media reports and the ensuing commentary, it has become clear to me that resigning at this time is necessary so that the CSU can maintain its focus squarely on its educational mission and the impactful work yet to be done.” 

Castro allegedly mishandled years of sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation complaints against Fresno State administrator Frank Lamas. The allegations sparked outcry from students, faculty and lawmakers. [USA Today]

The CSU chancellor repeatedly chose not to discipline Lamas, despite Fresno State receiving at least a dozen sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation complaints against him over a period of six years. Castro knew of at least seven of the complaints, yet he praised Lamas publicly, wrote him glowing performance evaluations and endorsed him for a prestigious lifetime award that the administrator ended up winning. 

After Fresno State launched a Title IX investigation into Lamas, Castro chose to settle the matter without disciplinary action. In an Aug. 2020 settlement, Castro authorized a $260,000 payment from Fresno State to Lamas, along with a clean record in exchange for Lamas’s retirement. Though the settlement banned Lamas from working for the CSU system again, Castro agreed to write him a letter of recommendation to help him find work elsewhere. 

The CSU Board of Trustees is currently finalizing a succession plan to replace Castro. The board also plans to launch an initiative to strengthen institutional culture and bring CSU to the forefront of Title IX innovation, accountability and response, the trustees stated in a press release. 

“We appreciate Chancellor Castro’s cooperation with the trustees and his decision to step down for the benefit of California State University system,” board chair Lillian Kimbell said in a statement.

A systemwide assessment to help help improve the CSU’s handling of Title IX and civil rights matters is expected to begin in March at Fresno State.

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