Op-ed defending former Fresno state president wrong
One of the most read stories on The Bee’s website for most of Tuesday was a commentary written by three prominent Fresnans who defended the former president of Fresno State University in court. , Joseph I. Castro.
He, of course, led California State University’s 23-campus system for a year as chancellor. It came to an abrupt end last February. That’s when USA Today ran a story about sexual harassment allegations made against a senior university administrator who had been recruited by Castro.
Frank Lamas, the vice president in charge of student affairs, has been charged with a dozen cases of harassment of employees and students over a six-year period. Of the 12 cases, seven of them were reported directly to Castro. Only one merited a formal investigation because that student agreed to file her allegation with the campus Title IX office, as protocol requires.
Rather than discipline or fire Lamas, Castro struck a golden handshake deal that paid Lamas a year’s salary, $260,000, plus pension benefits in exchange for his resignation and departure. Lamas left Fresno State at the end of 2020, and a few weeks later Castro was hired to lead CSU.
Just over a year after that, the USA Today story broke on Feb. 3. On February 17, CSU administrators decided to let Castro go, as the controversy had grown too great for him to overcome.
This has drawn the ire of the authors of The Bee’s latest commentary. Michael Der Manouel Jr., a Republican activist and local businessman, wrote in defense of Castro; Fresno City Council member Luis Chavez; and Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp. Der Manouel and Chavez are both Fresno State graduates.
Their main argument: that the CSU administrators gave in to the “mob” who demanded Castro’s departure, which happened “without evidence of wrongdoing…”.
In voicing this opinion, the trio no doubt expressed the sentiment of many in Fresno who had come to appreciate, even cherish, Castro while he ruled the university.
But far from being in a hurry to judge, CSU administrators would have failed in their duty to the system not to have Castro resign.
The editorial’s authors characterize Castro’s downfall as another piece of “woke” progressive politics hurting a good leader. But not only is this opinion wrong, it blurs the fact that Castro sealed his own fate with the way he handled harassment complaints in Fresno State.
Castro did not deal properly with Lamas, he was exposed and paid the price.
It’s understandable that Castro’s friends and acquaintances in Fresno felt like it all happened so quickly. It made.
Der Manouel, Chavez and Smittcamp highlight how Castro has done so much good at Fresno State. He gave continuous support to the first generation students who attended the university, because he was like them.
This is what makes Castro’s downfall tragic. He is a brilliant and passionate leader who has done many positive things at Fresno State.
But the trio’s editorial does not respect the victims of harassment. That this actually happened was confirmed by an investigation by an employment attorney hired by the state of Fresno after the Title IX complaint was filed.
Her conclusion: Of the 26 current and former Lamas employees she spoke to, 13 said they saw Lamas make sexist comments, touch women inappropriately, or close the blinds in his office when he was alone with them. . Three women said they caught Lamas staring at their breasts, and three others said they knew colleagues who would make the same allegation.
Rather than pull Lamas out of student affairs and put him in a job where he could do no wrong, Castro praised Lamas in annual performance reviews, endorsed him for a prestigious lifetime achievement award. , then paid Lamas to drop out of college.
Appropriate point of view
The editorial’s authors said Castro had been the victim of “‘provocative, unsourced and misleading’ media reports”.
USA Today reporter Kenny Jacoby embarked on a six-month investigation that used investigative reports, court records, police reports, emails and personnel files. He also interviewed key sources at Fresno State. The resulting story was hardly misleading or lacking in source.
The Bee later reported that Castro once used Lamas to babysit. It’s how close the two men were and how inappropriate this boss-subordinate relationship had become.
The story of Castro being kicked out as CSU Chancellor is not a victim of that. On the contrary, he put the well-being of Frank Lamas and his own career ahead of the employees and students affected by a self-centered vice president.
It’s crystal clear to anyone who wishes to have more than selective memory. That’s why Castro no longer leads the CSU.
BEHIND OUR REPORTS
What are editorials and who writes them?
Editorials represent the collective opinion of The Fresno Bee editorial board. They do not reflect the individual opinions of board members or the opinions of Bee reporters in the news section. Bee reporters do not participate in editorial board deliberations or influence board decisions.
The board includes editor Joe Kieta, opinion editor Tad Weber, Vida en el Valle editor Juan Esparza Loera, and Vida editor Maria Ortiz Briones.
We base our opinions on reports from our colleagues in the news section, as well as our own reports and interviews. Our members attend public meetings, call sources and follow up on readers’ story ideas, just like journalists do. Unlike journalists, who are objective, we share our judgments and clearly state what we think should happen based on our knowledge.
Find out more by clicking on the arrow at the top right.
tell us what you think
You may or may not agree with our point of view. We believe disagreement is healthy and necessary for a functioning democracy. If you would like to share your own perspective on important events for the Fresno area, you can write a letter to the editor (220 words or less) or submit an editorial (600 words). Either can be sent to [email protected] Due to a high volume of submissions, we are unable to post everything we receive.