Reeling from questions about the handling of sex-harassment complaints and responses to administrators accused of wrongdoing, the Board of Trustees of the Long Beach-based California State University System called Tuesday for the development of system-wide policies on such matters.
The board formalized previously announced plans for an independent assessment of its Title IX practices on all campuses. It also approved an outside probe of the handling of a specific harassment case involving a Fresno State administrator by then-campus President Joseph Castro, who later became CSU chancellor but resigned last month over questions about the case.
“The challenges of the past few months have illuminated a need to review existing policies and practices to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to support our students and employees,” Lillian Kimbell, chair of the Board of Trustees, said in a statement.
“Over the next several months the university will implement new policy, revise and strengthen existing policies and practices, eliminate unnecessary policy when appropriate, and will do so in a transparent manner in alignment with our aspirations for the CSU to be the national leader in Title IX and other areas.”
Among the actions approved by the board Tuesday was a halt to the university’s Executive Transition Program for new administrator hires. The program offers payments and medical benefits to executives who step down from their posts. The Los Angeles Times reported this month that the CSU has paid out more than $4 million in such benefits in recent years to departed executives — including Castro.
The CSU system will also review its system of “retreat rights,” which allow administrators to “retreat” to tenured faculty positions when they leave administrative posts. According to the CSU, while new policies are being developed, any contracts regarding “retreat rights” will include language to ensure that such rights will be forfeited if an administrator is found to have engaged in significant misconduct.
The overhaul at CSU was prompted by media reports last month about Castro’s handling of a case involving then-Fresno State Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Frank Lamas.
According to a USA Tuesday report, as many as a dozen harassment complaints were made against Lamas over a six-year period, including allegations that he stared at women’s breasts, touched women inappropriately, made sexist remarks and would berate and retaliate against employees.
Despite the allegations, no action was taken against him until a 2019 complaint that Lamas had allegedly offered to promote a female employee in return for sexual favors, the paper reported.
That complaint prompted a university investigation that found the allegation to be credible. And it led to the 2020 settlement agreement, in which Lamas received a $260,000 payment and left the university with a glowing letter of reference from Castro, according to the report.
Castro acknowledged that some aspects of the Lamas case could have been handled differently, but he insisted he followed CSU policies. He also backed an independent investigation of the case.
Castro resigned as CSU chancellor in mid-February as the Board of Trustees began reviewing the handling of the Lamas case.