Embattled former CSU chancellor can take faculty position at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo – San Bernardino Sun

Recently ousted California State University Chancellor Joseph Castro will receive a salary of $401,000 while participating in a yearlong transition program that allows him to become a professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he is tenured.

Under his settlement agreement with the CSU system, released Friday by the Chancellor’s Office, Castro also will continue to receive a housing allowance for the next six months valued at $47,002, CSU spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp said.

Additionally, Castro can cash out all unused vacation time for the 17 months he served as chancellor of the 23-campus system, as well as any vacation time he accrues while he participates in the one-year executive transition program. He also will receive sick leave and other benefits during this period.

Uhlenkamp Friday that it’s too early to determine what the monetary value would be for Castro’s unused vacation and sick time.

“That will only be calculated and paid out when/if he leaves the CSU. As he’s in the transition program for a year, we won’t have that until he determines if he’s going to go back to the faculty,” said Uhlenkamp, who added that Castro has yet to decide whether to take the professorship at San Luis Obispo.

If Castro takes the position, CSU will reimburse him for moving costs from Long Beach, where the Chancellor’s Office is located, to San Luis Obispo, according to the settlement agreement.

The executive transition program available to CSU administrators — chancellor, vice chancellor, university presidents — allows the system to benefit from the accumulated experience of each individual upon his or her resignation, Uhlenkamp said.

Pressured to resign

Castro resigned on Feb. 17 amid reports that he failed to properly handle complaints of sexual harassment and bullying against Frank Lamas, the former vice president for student affairs at Fresno State University, when Castro served as president there.

In November 2019, Fresno State commissioned two investigations into Lamas in response to more than a dozen complaints of sexual harassment and fostering a hostile work environment that spanned his five-year career at the university.

An alleged victim of Lamas claimed he touched her on the shoulder, lower back, knee and thigh, put his arm around her, grabbed and massaged her arm and adjusted her bra strap, even after she told him she didn’t like to be touched. He often would gawk at her body parts, as well as other women’s, and tell sexually explicit stories, the investigations determined.

Instead of properly investigating the complaints stacked up against Lamas, Castro  allowed him to quietly retire in 2020 with a $260,000 severance, retirement benefits and a glowing letter of recommendation, according to a settlement agreement signed by Lamas on Aug. 31, 2020. Less than a month later, Castro left Fresno State for the top-ranking position with the CSU system.

Lamas has denied doing anything wrong, calling the allegations against him “illegitimate and false.” He said the university ignored information he and his supporters provided during the investigations in 2019. Despite what he claimed was a positive track record at Fresno State, he decided to resign to prevent a “prolonged legal situation.”

Retreat rights

Castro has “retreat rights” at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he holds the position of tenured professor of leadership and public policy in the area of Management, Human Resources and Information Systems within the Orfalea College of Business.

Retreat rights allow former faculty members who ascend to the ranks of administrators within the CSU system to fall back, or “retreat,” to their former faculty positions should their administrative positions not work out.

On Tuesday, March 1, the CSU Board of Trustees, amid pressure from Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, and the academic senates of several colleges within the CSU system, announced it would commission an independent investigation into Castro’s and other administrators’ handling of the Lamas complaints, which spanned 2014 through 2019.

The Board of Trustees also announced Tuesday that CSU will revise its practice allowing administrators to retreat to faculty positions, and that the Chancellor’s Office was preparing to issue a policy that will bring systemwide consistency to a process that has historically been addressed individually by CSU’s 23 campuses.

Uhlenkamp could not say Friday whether Castro’s retreat rights, which were included in his employment agreement with CSU when he took the chancellor position, will be rescinded once the new policy takes effect.

“This is a very important and complex question and why the CSU is developing a systemwide policy to create clarity and consistency for retreat opportunities,” he said.

Additionally, CSU has no findings of misconduct related to Castro, other than what has been reported in the news media. “All misconduct was specific to Lamas,” Uhlenkamp said.

He said the university’s independent investigation will provide a more thorough understanding of the circumstances at Fresno State during Castro’s tenure as president.

‘Outrageous and irresponsible’

Irene Matz, an associate professor at Cal State Fullerton and chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee for Academic Senate for California State University, said in an email Friday that it is an insult to the integrity of CSU to allow Castro the opportunity to teach.

“Castro wasn’t guilty of sexual harassment, but he condoned it by doing nothing until there was a formal complaint,” she said. “As far as the compensation of salary, housing and moving expenses — it is another insult to the hard working faculty and others at CSU.”

The California Faculty Association, which represents more than 29,000 tenure-line instructional faculty and staff across the CSU system, also weighed in on the settlement, issuing a statement calling it “outrageous and irresponsible.”

“It sends a message that the CSU Board of Trustees endorses rewarding bad behavior when it comes to our administrators,” the statement said. “Trustees are more interested in business as usual and damage control than they are in addressing severe and systemic harassment and abuse across the CSU.”

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