Grace Schweitzer is a psychology sophomore and opinion columnist for Mustang News. The views expressed in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
College campuses have a history of being a place riddled with sexual assault, sexual misconduct, stalking, and domestic violence incidents; many of these stories never go told or even reported due to the mistrust felt towards administration and those who are meant to make campus feel safer. Cal Poly has proven to be no different for a handful of students on campus.
This month, Cal Poly SLO students were informed that a passive party in a series of sexual misconduct allegations would be taking a teaching position in the College of Business this Spring. Resigned CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro will soon be standing in front of students, teaching about leadership and public policy in one of the concentrations offered within OCOB. With the official statement made by Castro and confirmation on Cal Poly’s part, a negative wave of responses could be felt and seen across the campus community as well as social media.
With such a loud reaction to news about Castro the Cal Poly administration needs to take a stand alongside the hundreds of thousands of students who are fighting to have their voices heard. Students want a safer campus, one that does not become a home to people with histories of ignoring the stories of survivors. Cal Poly’s ears must be turned to the students and faculty begging for something to change.
Those who are a part of the college administration are not only there to provide further education for the young, they are also there to ensure the safety and well-being of all those who are included in the campus community. Castro failed his students and faculty by not fulfilling one of the most important parts of his job by continuing his support and open affection for Frank Lamas, the former CSU Fresno Vice President of Student Affairs, after each allegation was made.
Cal Poly has been placed in a position where they have little choice to refuse Castro because of his retreat rights given to him by California State University. But with no statements made to the community or the students on campus, the adminstration’s position on sexual misconduct and hostile work environments for faculty and student-employees is called into question.
Both students and parents are beginning to feel uneasy and upset with the CSU administration for allowing Castro to take tenure on Cal Poly’s campus — working directly with the students who are meant to be protected. Many on campus have spoken out against Castro’s new position and have even begun a petition to express their dismay. Those who experience sexual assault and violence on campus already struggle to have their voices heard and believed; the community here in San Luis Obispo is not willing to let these voices be further silenced by those who are supposed to be protecting the student population and faculty.
Even if angry emails from students, faculty and parents start streaming in, Cal Poly can’t do much of anything due to the retreat rights given to Joseph Castro in his contract with CSU Fresno. The only way for the campus and community at Cal Poly to deny Castro his retreat rights is if another large settlement was made in exchange for his tenure position here – not the most ideal solution to this problem. When the options bubble down to giving Castro even more money after his settlement with CSU Fresno or letting him teach as a tenured professor, how can the school not expect the student population to be beaming with anger? Those who are complacent in sexual assault and misconduct allegations should not be rewarded with either of these options.
Questions about the Cal Poly administration and their devotion to protecting this community have begun to circle campus. It’s hard to be anywhere on campus without hearing angry peers discuss Castro’s future on campus. When taking a break from note-taking, students see the many reposts of the Castro news filled with anger and refusal to go unheard. After last year’s tragedies on campus that created two more sexual assault survivors at Cal Poly, how can students expect to have their stories heard? Cal Poly has a history of repeated sexual assaults on campus and taking in someone known for ignoring the voices of survivors.
Just two years ago, Cal Poly hired someone with a similar background to Castro. This too caused a major uproar in the community and a fight for the rescinding of a job offer to Paulette Granberry Russell. With a reputation of bringing in those who are ignoring stories of sexual assault survivors and failing to make students feel safe, is Cal Poly really doing right by the students and staff? Most would answer no — Cal Poly is not actively protecting its community.
When Spring quarter of 2023 begins we will be able to see exactly how students and the community respond to a teacher known for actively ignoring sexual misconduct allegations. College campuses, including that of Cal Poly, are already spaces that often make survivors feel invalidated when seeking for help. With the beginning of Castro’s tenured teaching position here, will students and faculty feel even more unsafe? Will their voices of anger and refusal to accept complacency be heard?