California State University president resigns over claims he mishandled sexual harassment allegations

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The chancellor of California State University announced his resignation Thursday after allegations he mishandled sexual misconduct allegations against an administrator while he was president of Fresno State. 

“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,” Joseph I. Castro said Thursday of his resignation, effective immediately. He was appointed in 2020. 

The Cal State system is the largest four-year public university system in the country with 23 campuses. 

Castro said he disagreed with “much of the ensuing commentary” linked to the accusations regarding informal complaints against Frank Lamas, former Fresno State vice president of student affairs when Castro was president. But he said he realized resigning was necessary so the university system could “maintain its focus squarely on its educational mission and the impactful work yet to be done.”

Joseph I. Castro, at the time president of Fresno State, waves to the crowd before the team’s NCAA college football game Nov. 4, 2017, against BYU in Fresno, Calif. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, File)
(AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, File)

Starting in 2014, Lamas faced several accusations of sexist comments, harassment, retaliation and inappropriate touching at work but no action was taken until a formal complaint was filed against him in 2019. 

The Water Tower stands above the campus of Cal State University in Fresno, California, in 2007. 

He was barred from campus and retired in 2020 as part of a settlement agreement, receiving a $260,000 payment and a letter of recommendation from Castro. Lamas denies the allegations.

A Feb. 3 USA Today investigation sparked the closer scrutiny of Castro, which led to a protest at Fresno State.  

CSU’s executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer Steve Relyea will be acting chancellor until an interim one is named, according to the board. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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