Joseph I. Castro, once a rising star in higher education who resigned as president of Cal State under pressure last month, will receive nearly $450,000 as part of a settlement announced Friday. Castro is leaving after evidence that he rewarded rather than punished a senior official found responsible for sexual harassment and bullying.
Under the agreement, Castro will receive a salary of $401,364 in a one-year “executive transition plan” through February 2023 and will be chronicle. During this time, he will serve as an advisor to the University System Board of Trustees. Salary is calculated as the midpoint between his final salary as president and the maximum salary of a tenured professor.
After February 2023, he will have an option to join the Caltech San Luis Obispo system campus faculty as a tenured professor of leadership and public policy when he is named president in September 2020. He will also receive a monthly housing allowance of $7,917 for the next six months, for a total of $47,502.
It’s not uncommon for university leaders to resign under the cloud to receive huge bonuses. In 2016, Baylor University awarded Kenneth W. Starr $4.5 million in severance. In 2019, the University of Central Florida negotiated a $600,000 severance package with its former president, Dale Whittaker.
In both cases, colleges had to buy out former leaders from lifetime contracts. Castro has not indicated whether he plans to exercise his so-called faculty withdrawal rights at Cal State. If he does, he will likely encounter some resistance. In an editorial last month, Fresno Bee It would be “an outrage” for Castro to return to tenure, wrote.
“If Cal State is to regain any credibility,” it wrote, “Joseph Castro cannot teach at Caltech.”
The California Teachers Association called the solution “outrageous and irresponsible.”
“It sends the message that the CSU board supports rewarding our managers for bad behavior,” the group said in a prepared statement. “Trusts are more interested in business as usual and damage control than they are in addressing Serious and systemic harassment and abuse throughout CSU.”
Text of the agreement between Castro and Cal State University
As part of the settlement, Castro agreed not to sue the university and to cooperate with any investigations related to his role as president of the 23-campus CSU system or president of the Fresno campus. The board has commissioned an independent investigation into the Cal State system and how Castro handles sexual harassment complaints. It was during Castro’s presidency in Fresno that the controversy that led to his resignation erupted. It involved his response to years of complaints against Frank Lamas, the vice president of student affairs that Castro had personally recruited in 2014. A Title IX complaint filed in 2019 led to a finding that Lamas had sexually harassed an employee.
Instead of firing him, Castro signed a deal with Lamas that included a $260,000 bonus, retirement benefits, a clean record and the promise of a warm recommendation. Castro said the settlement in which Lamas agreed to no longer work for CSU was the only way for him to ensure that Lamas leaves because he also has the right to withdraw from the faculty. Castro further argued that there was nothing he could do until a formal complaint was filed — something Title IX experts disputed.
Lamas insists he did nothing wrong and that university investigators failed to take into account years of positive reviews and testimonies about performance by his supporters.