Cal State Long Beach faculty call on CSU chancellor to resign over Fresno misconduct case
More than 200 Cal State Long Beach faculty and staff members have signed a petition calling on California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro to resign over his handling of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment allegations against a top administrator when Castro was president at Fresno State.
The petition comes as the Cal State Board of Trustees is scheduled to convene a closed-door session Thursday to decide whether to launch an investigation into Castro’s actions in dealing with multiple complaints over a six-year period involving Fresno State Vice President of Student Affairs Frank Lamas.
“Our Chancellor’s behavior speaks clearly to faculty, staff, and students — Castro does not care about sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or the safety and well-being of those of us who are most likely to be the targets of predators like Lamas,” the petition states.
As president of Fresno State in 2020, Castro quietly authorized a $260,000 payout and a retirement package for Lamas. He also provided a glowing letter of recommendation to Lamas that lauded him for his “bold leadership” without disclosing university investigative findings supporting the allegations of sexual misconduct. In a 2019 complaint, a female employee alleged that Lamas touched her knee and moved his hand up her thigh in a car while talking to her about job prospects after at least two years of other unwelcome contact.
Several weeks after approving the agreement — which Castro said barred him from including the sexual misconduct issue in his letter — he was named chancellor of the largest public four-year university system in the nation. A review of the settlement agreement did not find that stipulation.
Cal State Board of Trustees Chair Lillian Kimbell said this month that she would ask the board to approve an investigation of Castro following calls to do so from Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside), who chairs the Assembly Higher Education Committee, state Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), chair of the California Senate Education Committee, and the California Faculty Assn. — the union that represents more than 29,000 Cal State faculty members.
The chancellor’s office declined to comment on the petition.
“We are going to refrain from commenting on the situation in advance of tomorrow’s board meeting. If there is any action decided by the board, we’ll make sure to communicate that out,” an email statement said.
The Long Beach chapter of the California Faculty Assn. does not believe an CSU investigation is necessary to prove wrongdoing after Castro confirmed that he was involved in the settlement agreement.
“We already know those facts. We already know what Castro did. We already know that he admitted that he reacted how he did, which was not to react and basically reward this individual,” Cal State Long Beach professor Emily Berquist Soule said. “To us, that’s all the facts we need. We don’t have confidence that he would protect ourselves or our students from violence and sexual discrimination.”
Berquist Soule said that the Board of Trustees has received the petition and will consider it during Thursday’s discussion.
Castro’s handling of allegations against Lamas came under scrutiny two weeks ago following a USA Today report.
In interviews with The Times, Castro said he regretted writing the letter and would not do so again. He said he agreed to the settlement — with counsel to do so by then-Chancellor Timothy P. White — to ensure that Lamas would leave the university without litigation and to protect students and staff from further problems.
Berquist Soule said: “He needs to be held accountable for his behavior and he needs to govern our university system with equity, diversity and inclusion. We don’t feel confident that he can do that if he is systemically silencing women and victims of predators.”
She said she and other faculty members believe a second investigation is unnecessary in showing that Castro’s judgment was wrong.
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