Credit: CSU News Center | Courtesy

On Friday morning, USA Today reported that California State University Chancellor and former Fresno State president Joseph Castro is under fire for mishandling sexual harassment complaints. 

At the same time Castro was sworn in as the CSU Chancellor as the first-ever California native and Mexican-American, on Sept 21, 2020, Fresno State administrators were conducting an internal investigation on Fresno State’s former vice president of student affairs Dr. Frank Lamas. 

According to the USA Today report, “Castro, the school’s human resources department, and its Title IX office received at least 12 complaints about Lamas.” 

These complaints started the first week Lamas started his job, with accusations including Lamas staring at women’s breasts, inappropriate touching and making sexist remarks. 

Instead of taking the proper measures to discipline Lamas, Castro praised and endorsed him for a prestigious lifetime achievement award which Lamas eventually went on to win. 

“I want to acknowledge the pain suffered by the members of the Fresno State community,” Castro wrote in an open letter. “To those who were hurt by Dr. Lamas’ behavior and actions, I am deeply and profoundly sorry.”

When the formal Title IX complaint was filed against Lamas, Castro, instead of firing Lamas, sent him off with a recommendation letter and $260,000.

“In hindsight, while my motives were to expedite Dr. Lamas’ permanent removal from the CSU, I regret agreeing to this aspect of the settlement, knowing that it caused additional pain,” Castro wrote. 

In light of the allegations, State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) called for an investigation of the CSU Board of Trustees. 

“If those allegations are proven to be accurate, I would then ask Chancellor Castro to immediately resign from his position since it would call into clear question his ability to lead the California State University system and its thousands of employees,” Leyva said in a statement.  

CSU Board of Trustees member Lillian Kimbell also asked the legislative board to run an independent investigation but is supportive of Castro’s apologies.

“I appreciate the forthright nature with which Chancellor Castro has addressed the allegations and concerns raised in the recent USA Today story,” Kimbell said in a direct statement. “The Chancellor’s willingness to be apologetic​ and reflect candidly on his own actions is the type of leadership we should seek.”

In addition to addressing his time at Fresno State, Castro will be launching a “systemwide review of Title IX compliance and community awareness.”

“I’ve also asked Chancellor Castro to look at developing guidelines for appropriate circumstances for providing recommendations for separated employees,” Kimbell added. “I look forward to continue working with Chancellor Castro to further address all of these challenges and to make the process stronger for the future.”