Opinion: After Latest Chancellor’s Exit CSU Should Rethink its Policies

Joseph I. Castle
Joseph I. Castle. Photo courtesy of Fresno State University

Last month, USA Today published an explosive report on the new Chancellor of the State University of California, Joseph Castro. The article pointed out how Castro, when he was president of CSU Fresno, had given the vice-president for student affairs a large enough salary to retire.

Castro praised Frank Lama’s service, despite numerous allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation. The CSU Board of Directors, blinded by this information about its new chancellor, convened an extraordinary meeting and accepted Castro’s proposal. resignation on February 17th.

Few higher education leaders have fallen so quickly. When the board appointed Castro he was praised as “perfect” person from advocacy organizations, and as “moving”By Governor Gavin Newsom. Castro’s admiration was largely based on his work as president of CSU Fresno, his defense of first-graders and his fascinating personal story.

The council claimed it was unaware of the payment Castro had imposed. Castro claimed that his actions had been signed by then-Chancellor Tim White and that he had followed the rules. He later apologized for the harm he might have done to the victims of the sexual harassment.

The board acted quickly in two of the three critical areas. Initially, they called for a review of policies that allowed someone with sexual harassment complaints to keep their job and retire with redemption. Such a review is justified and necessary.

Secondly, too agreed with Castro apply to retain his salary and privileges for one year and then have retirement rights on a CSU campus, allowing him to become a faculty member. Such a request, although provoked by some professors and legislators, is in fact mediocre. In an environment of litigation an individual can cost an organization much more than what Castro asked for. Recall that the disgraced president of the University of Southern California, Max Nikias, received more than $ 7.6 million in its output package as the cost to leave.

What the CSU Board has not done, at least publicly, is to look at its own procedures that allowed them to hire a person with such recognition and then have him resign in less than 24 months. Instead, the council and its supporters seem to be moving forward and looking at what they are doing they want a new chancellor. Such a defense is premature and useless.

The board has cost taxpayers millions of dollars due to its misguided search and has slowed, if not stopped, the momentum that Castro had remarkably begun to create a more responsive and inclusive system for first-graders.

Shouldn’t the board first acknowledge its failure to do due diligence and then find a way to ensure that such a mistake does not happen again? “Mistakes were made” does not cut it. The council must explore and reform its own procedures.

There are many possible treatments. The tendency is for boards to argue that in order to get the best candidates they have to conduct their searches privately. They also argue that they should keep the number of teachers, students and community members on a research committee to a minimum. Maybe the council should reconsider the way it conducts searches. “Sunlight,” said Louis Brandeis, “is the greatest disinfectant. »

Certainly, any organizational process is not perfect. But blaming current problems on campus-based policies or on someone who acted in good faith is wrong. The CSU Board needs to look in the mirror and rethink its policies, otherwise we may be back where we are in another 24 months, no matter how perfect or exciting the next candidate may appear.

William G. Tierney is an Emeritus Professor and Founding Director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California and its author Higher Education for Democracy: The role of the University in Civil Society. He wrote this for CalMattersa public interest journalism project that is committed to explaining how the California Capitol works and why it matters.

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