Investigation of Cal State University Chancellor Opened Regarding Mishandling of Sexual Harassment Complaints

Written by Bobbie Wylie

An investigation into the actions of California State University Chancellor Joseph Castro has begun amid allegations that he mishandled sexual harassment complaints during his time as the President of Fresno State University.

Castro, the current chancellor of the 23-campus CSU system, has been accused in a USA Today story of failing to appropriately deal with an administrator accused of sexual harassment. Instead of addressing the complaints, Castro instead gave that administrator a sweetheart deal that allowed the administrator to quietly leave Fresno State and never work for the CSU system again.

According to a USA Today story, Castro only launched an in-depth investigation into the administrator, former vice president of student affairs Frank Lamas, after a doctoral student reported him “implying he would help her get promoted in exchange for sexual favors.”

In the six years that Lamas worked for Fresno State, the university received 12 complaints about his inappropriate behavior, seven of which were received by Castro himself. The investigation launched by Castro found that 13 of 26 employees who worked for Lamas said “they’d witnessed Lamas make sexist comments, touch women inappropriately, or close his office window blinds while alone with them.”

Castro’s response to Lamas’ inappropriate behavior was to give him glowing performance reviews and recommend him for a university lifetime achievement award. Lamas was later offered a deal by Castros to leave Fresno State and never work at another CSU campus: a year’s salary at $260,000, full retirement benefits, and the promise of a recommendation letter to apply at universities outside of the CSU.

“It scares me to no end to think that Joe Castro is in charge of 23 CSUs, thousands of staff, hundreds of thousands of students, and hundreds of millions of dollars, and yet he couldn’t make the right decision at Fresno State,” said Terry Wilson, a former staff member who said Lamas harassed and retaliated against him. “I don’t know if he knows the difference between right and wrong. If he does, he doesn’t have the backbone to make the hard decision.”

Photo Cred: The California State University System