California · Education

Legislature OKs sweeping audit into CSU system following sex harassment complaints

A Valley lawmaker’s demand for an independent state audit into the California State University’s handling of Title IX violations at Fresno State and other system universities is moving forward. 

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee approved the bipartisan request on Monday, which was led by Asm. Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) and requested by over 40 additional legislators. 

Patterson led the coalition of bipartisan legislators by submitting the request in May after Gannet revealed troubling details surrounding Fresno State earlier this year. 

“The audit is going to take a look at the Office of the Chancellor at Fresno State, San Jose State and Sonoma State and the review of the system-wide Title IX offices and their investigatory processes,” Patterson said Monday. 

“In other words, how did we get to the circumstance at Fresno State, San Jose State and Sonoma State? These were controversial decisions and they really brought serious questions about whether the system at CSU is really a system that essentially effectively protects itself, has certain policies and practices that actually reward bad behavior.” 

Former Fresno State Vice President of Student Affairs Frank Lamas was at the center of the report for the 12 formal Title IX complaints that were filed against him over his six years at the university. 

Former CSU Chancellor and Fresno State President Joseph Castro also took heat in the report for his handling of the investigations and resigned from his position leading the nation’s largest university system in February, just 13 months after taking the job. 

San Jose State had 23 student-athletes that were sexually harassed by former Director of Sports Medicine Scott Shaw, and Sonoma State President Judy Sakaki allegedly retaliated against an employee for reporting sexual harassment accusations against her husband, lobbyist Patrick McCallum. 

“One of my basic concerns here is that this appears to be a system-wide problem that essentially takes a long period of time and especially seems to protect the institution and its high executives to the detriment of Title IX, the reputation of the universities and the essential trust that staff and students have to have in the university that if they are sexually harassed that the university will infact investigate it, do it thoroughly, come to a conclusion,” Patterson said. 

“And when they have concluded that someone in high levels of authority at the CSU system did in fact do the things that these victims claim they did, that there should be swift, clear consequences that send a signal to those in authority at the universities we’re not going to let this happen, No. 1, and No. 2 to restore a sense of trust with the students and the faculty.” 

Patterson also said that the audit will review the “golden handshake” deal that Lamas received when he retired from the university in 2020. That deal saw Lamas take home a $260,000 settlement and a letter of recommendation from Castro. 

Castro also was the recipient of such a deal himself: $400,000 and retreat rights to serve as a tenured professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. 

The California State Auditor will begin the investigation in either four months or when the CSU system completes its own ongoing internal investigation.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.