Students and faculty are petitioning against Joseph Castro’s new tenured position at Cal Poly — which comes only one year after his contentious resignation as CSU chancellor.
Beginning spring quarter, on April 3, Castro is set to teach leadership and public policy in Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business.
The announcement of Castro’s impending arrival left students unsettled, including English junior Yvonne Bee and kinesiology senior Regina Hockert. The two created a petition shortly after hearing the news for students to share their concerns with the administration and Academic Senate, which is a faculty governing body.
The petition has garnered more than a thousand signatures.
“We first started with a Cal Poly-only petition, and then broadened it up to get information and support from the community as well,” Hockert said. “We wanted to get accurate information to give people the right to choose if they wanted to join our voices.”
In February 2022, a USA Today report revealed Joseph Castro’s mishandling of sexual allegations during his time as president of Fresno State. Consequently, he stepped down from his current position as chancellor.
“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 wrote in his resignation letter.
As the CSU Chancellor, Castro was granted retreat rights — a condition in contracts that allows a university administrator to fall back on a faculty position. For Castro, his retreat rights involved a teaching position at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
“College is already a dangerous enough place for sexual misconduct,” business administration senior Brianna Gallo said. “And the last thing we need is to add another person who’s not going to be an ally, a supporter and an advocate for students.”
After the investigation was released, Fresno State’s Academic Senate released a ‘Declaration of No Confidence’ about Castro exercising his retreat rights and entering Cal Poly as a tenured business professor.
“…He has violated the trust of not only the students, staff and faculty of the CSU but also the people of the state of California,” Fresno State’s Declaration of No Confidence reads.
Bee and Hockert not only noticed this concern among the Cal Poly students and staff, but the San Luis Obispo community. After talking with local businesses, there was a second petition created.
“Most of them do have families growing up here, so it does impact them and their children’s well-being,” Bee said. “There is this person on campus that is a threat to the entire county of San Luis Obispo, and it’s like a safety for everyone, and not just like college students, regardless of age.”
Castro’s offer includes a full-tenured professorship, with an annual salary of $165,564, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported. As a severance package, Castro was given a yearly salary of $401,364, according to EdSource.
“We made a decision with a lack of information,” California Faculty Association (CFA) SLO President Lisa Kawamura said about accepting Castro a retreat position at Cal Poly back in September 2020, before the investigation came out. “And now that that information has come out, we should be able to rescind his invitation to be a tenured, full professor here.”
According to the university, this decision was following the regular procedure.
“Dr. Castro’s retreat rights to Cal Poly were established by the CSU in September of 2020 in accordance with the standard process of naming a new CSU chancellor,” university spokesperson Matt Lazier said. “CSU policy mandates that Cal Poly honor Dr. Castro’s retreat rights.”
This pre-investigation decision has resulted in frustration in the community, specifically about holding Castro accountable for his actions and the people that will be affected because he is not.
“I don’t see how the administration can ignore the voices of so many concerned students and faculty about this,” CFA Racial and Social Justice chair Fooad Khosmood said. “They’re saying that, ‘Sorry, there’s nothing we can do — he signed the contract shortly before the scandal became public.’”
Kawamura said that, historically, when other Cal Poly faculty have asked for retreat rights with a particular department, the process involved consulting each of those departments before approval. However, this process has not been executed with Castro’s retreat rights.
“[Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong] meets with the groups, but he doesn’t ask our opinion or change what it is he’s going to do,” Kawamura added. “He just tells us what he’s going to do and then he does it. I think that it’s happened again.”
Kawamura’s use of “again” is referring to a previous similar situation with Paulette Granberry Russell, who was the Title IX coordinator at Michigan State when Larry Nassar was sexually assaulting the students. Russell initially accepted a position for the Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) with Cal Poly until students spoke out against it.
“I honestly didn’t think — like most people didn’t think — that Castro was going to accept,” Bee said. “There was a previous Mustang News article about the VP of the DEI, and then she declined [the position].”
Russell declined the position after students, staff and faculty protested her stepping into the VP of DEI role.
Armstrong was upset with the community’s response, and as a result, said he would consult when the next VP of DEI would be chosen.
“The university will consult students, faculty and staff to select the next Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion,” Armstrong wrote at the time.
Similar to Russell’s position, students are once again petitioning and putting a spotlight on their concerns.
“I think this is an example of how he [Castro] doesn’t align with the ‘Learn by Doing’ philosophy,” Gallo said. “Actions speak louder than words.”
Bee and Hockert’s petition includes a list of links to resources, hoping to provide an easy place for students to find school resources.
“We are working to give students a voice who do not want Castro on campus or teaching, as that is valuable input in a situation that can make students feel very unwelcome and unheard,” Hockert said.
Cal Poly’s Academic Senate is holding a meeting Tuesday afternoon, where faculty will discuss a resolution that “calls on Dr. Castro to abort his retreat into tenured faculty at Cal Poly.” The meeting agenda and more information can be found here.
“I also know that Poly’s also working towards DEI,” Bee said. “I know this would definitely take away from that work. It’s still like in the process but just having him [Castro] would just hinder everything.”
Bee stresses that Castro’s professor position has the potential to grow his power on-campus.
“Then who knows what his plans are — does he plan on like, climbing the ranks or redeeming his name?” Bee added. “I don’t know.”