California State University Leader’ Handling of Sexual Misconduct Allegations “Insufficient” and “Unreliable”

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When California State University chancellor Joseph I. Castro resigned last spring amid accusations that he mishandled sexual misconduct allegations against a colleague during his tenure as president of Fresno State, CSU’s Board of Trustees ordered a full external review of the system’s Title IX reporting and investigation processes.

The results of that review, presented by the law firm Cozen O’Connor, are damning. Chair of Cozen O’Connor’s institutional response group, said the investigation found an “uneven application of policy” among the system’s 23 campuses. In the cases her team reviewed, she said, campus Title IX investigators often came to “incredibly disjointed and frankly unreliable conclusions.”

Associates for Cozen O’Connor said they visited every campus in the system and used feedback from over 18,000 students, staff, faculty members, and administrators to build their understanding of the current procedures and inform their recommendations for change.

Among other things, the law firm recommended that CSU hire dedicated staff to oversee Title IX complaints across the system—positions that Maisto Smith said “don’t really exist” at the moment; add resources and training in “trauma-informed Title IX compliance”; and create a well-staffed, formal oversight body at the system level to ensure the accountability of campus officials.

According to an EdSource investigation from last August, 54 CSU faculty members, coaches or other staff members were found responsible for sexual misconduct or discrimination between 2017 and 2021; of those, 30 resigned, were dismissed or otherwise left the system.

Some of the most dramatic revelations about the system’s failure to address sexual misconduct came in December at Chico State, where allegations of sexual harassment, threats of violence, and stalking by a professor sparked outrage—in large part because concerns about his behavior had been raised for years, to little effect.

The professor, David Stachura, reached a settlement agreement with Chico State in 2020 over his alleged affair with a graduate student. A year later he was named an “Outstanding Professor” and shortly after promoted to full professor. The university eventually suspended Stachura and earlier this year filed a restraining order against him after it came to light that he had purchased firearms with which he allegedly planned to intimidate or harm two colleagues who reported his affair. The provost who oversaw the investigation resigned in December.

The Cozen O’Connor report did not address these incidents by name but referenced the broader pattern of investigations being drawn out due to insufficient resources at individual campuses. It also noted that campus leaders with personal biases—such as Sakaki and Castro, who was friends with the colleague he neglected to investigate—may have ignored or attempted to conceal allegations of misconduct against those close to them, behavior that broader structural problems may have enabled.

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