Faculty and student advocacy for structural and systemic changes at the CSU following sexual and gender violence allegations that forced the former chancellor out seems to have swayed Trustees to possibly do the right thing.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the CSU “will halt a program that has paid millions to executives who have resigned in recent years […] until the Board of Trustees reviews a task force’s recommendations.”
“The times have changed. We will no longer allow the practices that have hidden, forgiven, or forgotten ethical transgressions that reward predators with hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in secret deals, severance agreements,” said Nena Torrez, CSU San Bernardino Chapter President.
CFA Secretary Diane Blair, too, condemned the “golden parachute” deals provided to former chancellor Joseph Castro and additional disgraced executives.
“Over $400,000 for advice and wisdom from a chancellor who had to resign in disgrace, having served only one year in that role? Plus, housing, plus benefits,” said Blair during Tuesday’s public comments. “It is absurd that the former chancellor with minimal teaching experience, who just resigned for covering up sexual harassment investigations while he was a campus president is being paid an extortionist-level salary and has the ability to ‘retreat’ to a university in the role of professor where he has no prior relationship.
“The Board of Trustees needs to do better for our students and faculty.”
With the Board’s announcement, CFA leaders and members remain cautiously optimistic. The State Legislature still needs to examine and investigate Title IX complaints, procedures, and processes on all 23 campuses in the CSU system and hold accountable any administrators or Trustees who protected and protects perpetrators of sexual and gender violence.
Students, faculty, and staff alike made these points clear on Tuesday and spoke out against CSU executives and Trustees’ handling of sexual and gender violence across the CSU system.
Students with Students for Quality Education (SQE) protested outside the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach before the meeting and during public comment vocalized their disdain of Trustees’ decisions for their decisions to honor ridiculous provisions in Castro’s contract, such as paying him $400,000 and allowing him the opportunity to retreat to faculty at Cal Poly.
“We need resources. Here at Fresno State, we have 10 counselors for 25,000 students. This is not enough. We need access to rape kits. We need access to transparent investigations. We need access to safe learning environments. We need access to adequate mental health,” said Beth Contreras, member of SQE and student at Fresno State. “The Board of Trustees is perpetuating inequality and suppression of its students, faculty and staff by promoting abusers like Frank Lamas and continuing to appoint officials through closed-door processes.”
“In a study done by you, the CSU, in 2018, 41.6 percent of students reported food insecurity and 10 percent reported experiencing homelessness. The CSU can find money for paying executives, but when it comes to students, faculty, and staff, we get zero,” said Melys Bonifacio-Jerez, a Chico State senior and member of SQE.
“We know this is not an isolated event. We demand independent investigations into each campus and a re-evaluation of the Title IX procedures, including a shift to center and support survivors,” said Tyler Calderon, a member of SQE and student at Sonoma State.
“As the Board of Trustees, each one of you is responsible for the oversight,” said Vang Vang, CFA Treasurer and librarian at Fresno State. “But in the past months, you have shown us that we– the people, the individuals, the human beings– staff, students, and faculty in the CSU are your last priority.”
“Where is your accountability?” Vang demanded. “You are doing the same thing [Castro] did. You are the Board of Trustees – are you not creative enough to think outside the box? Strong enough? What is stopping you from doing what is right and just?”
“Stop supporting the normative culture of abuse of power and turning your heads away from this,” said Heidi Riggio, a CFA member at Cal State LA. “There will be more of these scandals and the CSU could be destroyed by them.”
Kevin Wehr, CFA Vice President and professor of sociology at Sacramento State, compared the behavior of Trustees to the former chancellor after they decided to pay him $400,000 and provide him a year as a senior advisor to the Board.
“Who on Earth would take advice from someone who lied, who covered up bad behavior, and then paid off the perpetrator? This is preposterous, it is a misuse of public funds, and a violation of the public trust,” said Wehr. “You are the ones who should be ashamed of this behavior.
“When [Castro] lied to get his job, he forfeited any benefits the Board might have agreed with him. And if he didn’t lie – if in fact you knew about this scandalous behavior and still hired him? Well, then, the whole lot of you should be immediately dismissed.”
Additionally, CSU employees with Teamsters Local 2010 (Unit 6) and Academic Professionals of California (Unit 4) voiced their concerns over the CSU Bargaining Team’s handling of their contract negotiations. Students also spoke out about bad faith bargaining by the CSU.
CFA is in solidarity with our fellow CSU staff members, and the CSU should bargain in good faith and provide them with much earned raises and additional rights in their new contract.