Former CSU Chancellor Castro’s teaching job sparks ‘pension rights’ controversy – Times-Standard

Backlash grows over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo granting a teaching job to former California State Chancellor Joseph Castro, who resigned following allegations that he mismanaged complaints of sexual harassment against another director.

The controversy over Castro’s appointment as a professor of leadership and public policy at the university’s Orfalea College of Business revolves around a provision in the contracts of some California state executives that allows them to to “retire” from the faculty once they have left office. These “retirement rights” have come under intense scrutiny since appearing in a February USA Today investigation that documented sexual harassment allegations against former Fresno State Administrator Frank Lamas, and Castro’s response. The university’s board of trustees passed the second of two measures limiting their use last week.

Castro plans to start working at Cal Poly in the spring of 2023. On November 8, the university’s Academic Senate, which represents its faculty, issued a resolution calling on Castro to decline his appointment as a professor, arguing that his attendance at Cal Poly “will have a chilling effect on the climate of our campus and our classrooms.”

“It makes people very nervous to have someone with a potential track record of not handling Title IX issues very well now being put in the classroom as a mandated reporter,” said the President of the Academic Senate Thomas Gutierrez, referring to federal law governing the treatment of campuses by campuses. complaints of sexual harassment.

According to the USA Today investigation, while serving as campus president of Fresno State University, Castro was aware of at least seven sexual harassment complaints against then-student affairs officer Frank Lamas. on campus – including that he “stared at women’s breasts, touched women inappropriately, made sexist remarks, and berated, belittled, and retaliated against employees.

Still, he reached an agreement with Lamas allowing him to leave college with $260,000 and a letter of recommendation, later telling USA Today that he feared Lamas might exercise his right to retire clause. contract if he did not. By choosing to teach at Cal Poly SLO, Castro is now utilizing that same perk.

A CSU-commissioned review of the Fresno State case by attorney Mary Lee Wegner concluded in September that Castro allowed Lamas’ misconduct to continue by not taking more aggressive and consistent action. . The university’s faculty union cited the report in a Nov. 14 statement questioning Castro’s ability to teach leadership and public policy.

“Castro is poaching a position in which he does not have a terminal degree…possibly displacing existing teachers with proven educational backgrounds,” the California Faculty Association statement added.

In a written response, Castro said he agrees that Cal State’s Title IX policies require systemic reform, but that counsel’s review and media reports of the Fresno State affair had unfairly highlighted his role.

“I provided Ms. Wegner with substantial documentation indicating that I followed CSU policies and practices and the advice of legal experts and Title IX policies in handling the Lamas case,” Castro wrote. .

He added that it is common for academics with doctorates in different disciplines to teach in business schools. (Castro holds a doctorate in higher education policy and leadership from Stanford University, according to his biography.)

On Wednesday, the Cal State Board of Trustees changed its pension rights policy, giving university management the discretion to delay a decision on a former administrator’s pension rights while an ongoing investigation could lead to a finding against them. Directors initially adopted the policy in July, making directors who had been terminated or left under a settlement ineligible for pension rights. The policy also allows Cal State to investigate and take action against a former administrator accused of misconduct, even if that person has already exercised their right to retire.

The new policy “is meant to be forward-looking and would not impact Dr. Castro’s ability to exercise his pension rights,” said California state spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp.

That’s not enough for Grace Schweitzer, a third-year psychology student at Cal Poly.

She said she was concerned that Castro had “a history of ignoring allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct against other faculty members.”

“With everything going on in our country, we want our voices to be heard,” Schweitzer said. “We want to feel protected. We want to know that Cal Poly faculty and administration are going to hear us and not let our voices be hidden when something happens.

The California Faculty Association is pushing for pension rights to be abolished for executives who lack prior teaching experience in the department, calling them “golden parachutes.”

“Retirement rights are really meant to be for a faculty member of an institution who moves into administration, but has gone through the retention, tenure, and promotion process in a department in which he has previously taught” , said the secretary of the California Faculty Association. Diana Blair.

“For an executive who has no background in this department, who has never gone through the tenure process, to just be able to become a tenured full professor in the department – ​​that seems unfair to me.”

Taylor is a member of the CalMatters College Journalism Network, a collaboration between CalMatters and student journalists across California. Network editor Felicia Mello contributed reporting. This story and other articles on higher education are supported by the College Futures Foundation.

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