California State University chancellor Joseph I. Castro recommended a $260,000 payout and a retirement package with a “glowing” letter of recommendation for a campus vice president after an investigation found “credible evidence” that the administrator engaged in sexual misconduct against an employee, the Los Angeles Times reported. Castro was at the time, in 2020, president of Fresno State, within the Cal State system. (This paragraph was revised to clarify that Castro recommended the $260,000 payout, which was then authorized by the then CSU chancellor, Timothy P. White.)
The complaint was against Frank Lamas, vice president of student affairs. Lamas reportedly touched the employee’s knee and moved his hand up her thigh in a car while talking to her about job prospects after at least two years of other unwelcome contact. A university investigation found the allegations to be credible, including reports that Lamas grabbed the woman’s arm and massaged her biceps, touched her lower back near her buttocks, and put his arm around her even after she asked him not to touch her.
Lamas denied the charges.
The California Faculty Association said, “This is a problem with the culture in academia. Administrators are more interested in protecting other administrators and allowing them to save face, rather than doing what’s best for students and their well-being.”
Castro said he regretted writing the letter of recommendation and would not do so again. In the letter, he said, “The student experience at Fresno State will be forever improved because of Dr. Lamas’ bold leadership … Frank is a seasoned administrator who places students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, at the forefront of his thinking.”
The chair of the board of the Cal State, Lillian Kimbell, said in a statement that Castro is receptive to an investigation. “I intend to ask my board colleagues in the coming days to support these steps, as I know it will help us improve practices and policies for the future,” Kimbell said.
Jose Medina, who chairs the Assembly Higher Education Committee, said, “I think the most serious issue is for an administrator to not act when he or she is given … instances and allegations of sexual harassment. I think it is then incumbent on the administrator to take action and that is, I think, what needs to be looked at: what action or nonaction occurred.”