Fresno State faculty and staff speak on campus issues in open forums

On Thursday, Fresno State hosted two hours of open forums for teachers and staff, discussing any questions, issues or concerns they wanted to share with President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval and board members.

The hybrid event was moderated by Lauren Nickerson, Vice President for University Communications, and Betsy Hays, President of Media, Communications and Journalism, in Room 118 of North Gym. The questions were asked in person and online.

Talks about Joseph Castro and Frank Lamas

Questions in both forums focused on former Fresno State President Joseph Castro and the handling of sexual harassment cases involving former Fresno State Administrator Frank Lama.

“I think we have to go through the process to say what happened. “We also have to go through the process to envision what will happen after this process,” Jiménez-Sandoval said in his opening remarks.

“I know it was difficult for many of you. It was difficult for me as well as for the president, and it was difficult for them [Fresno State] region as well. “This is something very personal,” he said.

A member of the school, Luz Gonzalez, executive director of Fresno State Visalia Campus, spoke of the importance of protecting women on the campus community, advocating for women faculty members who are afraid to report sexual harassment.

The professor said the Castro and Lama case showed how the Fresno State environment left the girls’ school unable to help and afraid to file a complaint because of the “relationship between two men”.

The president agreed with her and said she had built the cabinet to promote trust and communication.

“I want to know the truth,” Jiménez-Sandoval said in response. “I do not want it with a sugar coating. I do not want him to surrender. “

At the staff meeting, which took place later, questions were asked whether the current managers involved in the case would go on paid leave as investigations continue.

Jiménez-Sandoval stood behind his current management staff and said he believed no manager would go on unpaid leave.

“They did what they had to do in their own situations,” he said.

He noted that after reading all the documentation of the case, he understood the “pressure on campus” and that “it is not an easy situation”.

Jiménez-Sandoval shared a brief overview of his experiences during the Lamas and Castro situation and said he did not read all of the case documentation until he was announced as full-time university president.

When Jiménez-Sandoval became professor and vice president of academic affairs in 2019, he said he had been interacting with Lamas for several months until an email informed him that Lamas was taking “leave of absence”.

Then he reached the Lama and told him to get well because he assumed he had left due to illness.

In January 2020, Jiménez-Sandoval said he was beginning to hear about possible investigations and thought he would be informed by Castro as soon as a report was made public. As soon as a report was created in March 2020, Jiménez-Sandoval said it was not released until next month.

During the negotiations that led to Lama’s removal from Fresno State, Jiménez-Sandoval said he was only part of the settlement when Castro asked if Lama could return as a teacher at the Kremen Education School. Jiménez-Sandoval said he rejected the proposal.

He also noted that he did not know about the $ 260,000 in the settlement and when personal matters concern one member of the cabinet, the others do not know because of confidentiality.

“What is important to know is the problem: We do nothing independent of the system. Everything the State of Fresno does here is done in direct coordination with the system. with the Office of the Adviser General, “said Jiménez-Sandoval.

Ever since Jiménez-Sandoval took over as full-time president in January 2021, he has said he wanted to make it clear to injured teachers and staff that they were angry at Castro’s misunderstanding that he understood the situation after reading all the reports.

“You have to trust me and you have to trust that I have read everything that has come to my office,” said Jiménez-Sandoval. “I have seen the documentation and I trust my cabinet fully and completely.”

Information and community concerns regarding Title IX

Discussions about Castro have led to a wider debate about how the university’s handling of all Title IX cases, with staff and faculty advocating for change in the system and process by which the State’s community Fresno handles these cases

A Fresno State faculty member climbs into the microphone to ask a question to President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval. (Wyatt Bible / The Collegian)

The president of the university provided briefings on the Title IX working group that was announced on February 8 and said that he was waiting for the confirmation of four more members of the committee to reveal the full working group. It was also announced that the members will consist of professors, staff and three students, as well as community members and professionals from outside Fresno State.

He also said that the purpose of the task force was to investigate Title IX cases, discrimination, harassment and retaliation (DHR), as well as micro-aggression and macro-aggression, which account for 85% of cases accepted by the administration, said Jiménez-Sandoval.

He noted that the classification of a minor aggression may also include cases that are not accepted for investigation and that the task force was set up to also assess this “gray area” in Title IX and DHR cases.

“We need a system that really deals with this [issues]. “Something specific in which we have everyone on board, from our deans, members of the cabinet, chairs, to everyone working together for a space that is collaborative and open to communication,” he said.

Along with the working group, questions were asked about the three additional Title IX and DHR administrators Jiménez-Sandoval announced he would hire, with one comment questioning why the university is not investing more resources and funds in current staff.

The three staff additions were created to promote a more efficient system, according to Jiménez-Sandoval. He said that he wants the system to hear the voice of the students, to find a solution or at least to inform them where they are in the process of their case.

Title IX concerns concerning the LGBTQ + community were addressed on the school forum. The president said he has spoken to advocacy groups who want the Student Health Center to start providing health initiatives and services to these communities.

COVID-19, mask politics and virtual modern lessons

The president said he wanted to make it clear that Fresno State “is still facing COVID-19”.

Vice President Deborah Adishian-Astone said the university was still encouraging everyone to complete the research before going to campus, and said the COVID-19 Examination Center would remain open for the rest of this semester.

Answering questions about the university removing the political mask, Jiménez-Sandoval said that the university is still confident in its decision and stands behind the decision to allow only teachers and not staff to impose the mask requirement. due to certain environments in the class that prefer masks.

Teachers and staff also cited the student rating system for teachers, saying they observed students struggling to deal with complaints to management.

Many said the students’ complaints were unheard of and supported changes in the way teachers were taught, with Carlos Martinez, a professor at the Craig School of Business, saying, “When students pay, they deserve good treatment, good customer service.”

“We have confidentiality concerns and the regulations are part of the collective bargaining agreement,” said Xuanning Fu, interim professor and vice president for academic affairs. “We want to significantly improve student feedback. We worked very hard to encourage it. “

Fu noted that student participation in assessment systems has decreased since the beginning of COVID-19.

The president also responded by saying that Kathleen Dyer, President of the Department of Child and Family Science, is leading a new way of evaluating teachers in the classroom and that more information will be announced later.

Both staff and faculty also asked questions about virtual modern learning and teleworking with students.

Jiménez-Sandoval said that modern virtual classrooms will continue for classrooms that are more suited to a virtual platform than to the classroom itself.

The staff forum has caused a “sense of frustration”, Hays said, reading an online comment because some staff members are accepted for teleworking while others refuse because of the “essential nature of their work”.

The president said that the university is doing its best to accommodate those who still want to do their job virtually and that people with specific cases or complaints should contact him.

Both open forums took place in Room 118 at North Gym with the school forum starting at 9 a.m. and the staff forum at 2 p.m. (Wyatt Bible / The Collegian)

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