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Zócalo Public Square publisher resigns after investigation finds discriminatory, inappropriate conduct

Zócalo Public Square publisher Gregory Rodriguez is stepping down as head of the prominent Los Angeles cultural and publishing nonprofit, Arizona State University announced Friday, a departure coming after an internal investigation found that he created an abusive workplace and engaged in behavior that discriminated against employees.

A spokesperson for Arizona State, which oversees Zócalo Public Square, said Rodriguez submitted his resignation Friday and his last day will be Jan. 3, 2020. He will no longer work for Arizona State in any capacity, the spokesperson said.

“Discussions are ongoing regarding a severance agreement and release of claims,” the university spokesperson said.

Rodriguez’s name and title had been removed from Zócalo Public Square’s staff list on the organization’s website by Friday afternoon.

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He did not respond to an email and text from The Times.

Gregory Rodriguez
Gregory Rodriguez submitted his resignation Friday, and his last day is Jan. 3.
(Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times)

The public face of Zócalo Public Square, Rodriguez was placed on administrative leave earlier this year from his $220,779 job after the university received complaints about him, a university spokesperson said last week.

The university’s three-page report of its investigation, which was reviewed by The Times, found that he berated employees and called them profane names. He called female employees “bitch” and “little girl” and in one case, yelled at a woman while he shook her, the report said.

“In addition to creating an abusive work environment for all employees, respondent’s treatment of female employees was notably worse,” the report stated.

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The behavior attributed to Rodriguez stood in contrast to the organization’s inclusive mission “to create a welcoming intellectual space,” according to its website.

The university said Friday that it intends to continue operating Zócalo Public Square and will announce a new executive director in the “near future.”

Rodriguez grew Zócalo Public Square into a well-known organization that hosts lectures and publishes articles on immigration, history and the arts, and has partnered with UCLA, the Getty, the Smithsonian and other institutions.

The nonprofit’s board of trustees on its website boasts an array of leaders from media, business and political worlds, including former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; John Gray, former director of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History; and Jennifer Ferro, president of public radio station KCRW-FM (89.9).

Rodriguez wrote in an online essay that he founded Zócalo Public Square after a 2002 incident in which someone at “snooty” L.A. event asked him if he’d been invited “under the Mexican quota.”

The comment galvanized Rodriguez “to create and host an intellectual space where no one would be singled out derisively and everyone would be welcome,” he wrote.

Arizona State University began funding Zócalo Public Square in 2010 and took it over in 2017. The university is expanding its presence in Los Angeles as it seeks to compete with Southern California schools for students.


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