Education

Castro, ex-Fresno State President, resigns as CSU Chancellor

Dr. Joseph I. Castro, the chancellor of the California State University system, resigned his post on Thursday weeks after news reports detailed mishandling of Title IX harassment complaints dating back to his time leading Fresno State.

Castro has become the focus of intense scrutiny following a bombshell report from Gannett detailing a bevy of Title IX sexual harassment complaints waged against a Frank Lamas, a senior member of his President’s Cabinet at Fresno State.

Lamas joined Fresno State’s leadership team in February 2014. Gannett reported that complaints regarding Lamas started appearing as soon as his first week on the job. 

That precipitated the six-year stretch – to when Lamas retired from the university in 2020 – where the university’s human resources department and the Title IX office received at least 12 complaints directed at Lamas. 

Those complaints included accusations of Lamas staring at women’s breasts, touching women inappropriately, making sexist remarks and berating, belittling and retaliating against employees. 

According to the report, Castro was personally aware of at least seven complaints. 

Things came to a head in 2019 after an incident resulted in the school’s first investigation into Lamas after years of complaints and allegations. 

Following the results of the official Title IX investigation in 2020, Castro agreed to a settlement with Lamas instead of firing him. 

Per the settlement, Lamas received $260,000 and full retirement benefits while agreeing to never work in the CSU system again. Castro also provided Lamas with a letter of recommendation. 

Castro was named as the CSU chancellor just three weeks after signing the settlement. 

The report, and follow-up stories, prompted the chairs of the Education committees in California’s State Assembly and Senate to call for probes.

Other demands, such as one from Asm. Jim Patterson (R–Fresno), included a sweeping audit of conduct across the California State University system.

In a statement announcing his resignation, Castro continued to contest the narrative built around the reports, but said that the nation’s largest public university system needed to move on from the distraction.

“I have been honored to serve the California State University for more than eight years, including as its eighth chancellor, and the decision to resign is the most difficult of my professional life,” Castro said in a statement. “While I disagree with many aspects of recent media reports and the ensuing commentary, it has become clear to me that resigning at this time is necessary so that the CSU can maintain its focus squarely on its educational mission and the impactful work yet to be done.”

Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, Steve Relyea has been named as acting chancellor of the CSU system while the Board of Trustees names an interim chancellor.

The Board of Trustees also intends to launch an initiative to strengthen institutional culture across the largest public four-year system of higher education and bring CSU to the forefront of Title IX innovation, accountability and response.

This story will be updated.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.