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Editorial: Cal State’s smoldering troubles can no longer be hidden

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Recent allegations that former CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro mishandled sexual harassment complaints while the Fresno State President uncovered questionable management of Cal State that goes well beyond a single troubled administrator.

Castro, who resigned last month after a USA Today story revealed he had failed to take serious action to address years of allegations against one of his associates, will be paid more than $400,000 next year and a lavish one receive housing assistance and social benefits. And as an LA Times investigation found in detail, he wasn’t the only departing executive to receive such a sweet perk. CSU has paid more than $4 million in salaries and benefits to a handful of former executives since 2006 as part of CSU’s Executive Transition Program.

It’s time for a thorough review of Cal State’s policies and programs related to top administrator misconduct and executive compensation benefits by an impartial outside consultant. It seems that the rights and needs of students and staff have repeatedly been overridden by special consideration for leaders.

It began with years of sexual harassment and bullying complaints against Fresno State’s vice president of student affairs, Frank Lamas. News reports revealed evidence that Castro downplayed grievances against llamas and took no serious action. When Castro had no choice but to get Lamas to leave, he sent him off with a glowing letter of recommendation without disclosing what happened to students, staff or the board of trustees when they asked him to run for chancellorship in 2020 considered.

Shortly after Castro’s alleged missteps were exposed, he resigned. But that was just the beginning of revelations about the inner workings of Cal State.

It’s frustrating enough that the university system will pay Castro about $400,000 next year to serve as an advisor to the university. But under a policy that allows university administrators to become professors who step down, Castro can join Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as a professor if he chooses to do so in the coming months.

It is unfortunate that while Castro has the right to return, the university appears to have been unable to negotiate a resignation arrangement that would see him leave the university. If he started teaching at San Luis Obispo, his presence would no doubt keep the uproar high.

Any review must also question the continued existence of the transitional program, under which chancellors, vice chancellors and campus presidents who step down are paid a year or more when they could become professors in the university system. During their transition period, they are available for consultation and will offer institutional reminders and advice as needed, according to a Cal State spokesman. Castro’s predecessor, former Chancellor Timothy P. White, who resigned in December 2020, is still receiving a salary during his two-year transitional period.

That’s a lot of money for an amorphous job for people who have left their high-paying positions in honor or in disgrace. True, the payouts are small compared to Cal State’s $12.4 billion budget, but they send a bad message about the priorities of the university system. Why aren’t other staff paid for a year of “providing institutional memory” when they move to a new position within the university? After just a little over a year on the job, how much institutional memory would Castro have?

It’s not like Castro isn’t entitled to severance pay. He has served California’s public university systems – both Cal State and the University of California – for many years and by all accounts has made some real improvements. But a year on a board salary plus generous housing allowances for a job of dubious undergraduate value while Castro waits to decide whether to join the Cal Poly faculty is a luxury no college, especially a public one, should afford .

Add to that the inappropriate initial reaction from CEO Lillian Kimbell (now removed from Cal State’s website) in support of Castro, and there are too many signs of management sweeping sensitive issues under the rug and an all-okay wanted to keep up the facade. University leaders should know that the days when they could hide serious problems, particularly those related to sexual harassment, are over.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-03-14/editorial-csu-castro-executive-transition-program Editorial: Cal State’s smoldering troubles can no longer be hidden

Caroline Bleakley

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