Teachers union calls for reform of withdrawal rights after Castro gets job at Cal Poly

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In September, former Fresno State President Joseph Castro used his right of withdrawal as former chancellor of California State University (CSU) to become a full professor Cal Poly San Luis Obispo next year.

Resignation rights are contractual guarantees in the CSU administrators’ contract for former faculty members who resign for a higher position. If an administrator wanted to return to a teaching position, it would be the executive authority to decline as a tenured professor.

According to Fresno State professor Diane Blair, despite the CSU Board of Trustees’ announcement of an investigation into opt-out rights in March, the California Teachers Association (CFA) has called for executive benefits reform.

“This includes what we believe is a kind of mislabeling of withdrawal rights that allows executives like Castro to walk away,” Blair said.

The CSU has not made it clear to the CFA whether any changes have been made, she added.

Blair is the secretary of the CFA, which is a state officer. CFA is an alliance of professors, teachers, librarians, counselors and coaches at CSU’s 23 campuses.

The union called for the reforms because Castro was never a professor, never taught at Cal Poly and resigned because he mishandled Title IX cases, Blair said. She believes that this should not entitle him to exercise his withdrawal rights.

“His executive privileges basically let him, after he had to to resign in disgrace, to go and become a tenured professor at a CSU institution he had never worked at before; at the college and in a department where he had never worked before,” Blair said. “Where he will be a professor of leadership and public policy, a position he has never held before. So how? [does] that qualifies as a retreat, doesn’t it? It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

She also said it’s a bigger problem in the CSU system because superintendents can abuse those benefits, and it shows a lack of accountability for people in higher positions.

That’s why other Fresno State professors like Kenneth N. Hansen said they weren’t surprised when they heard the news about Cal Poly.

“Someone who has never been promoted, who doesn’t have a lot of teaching experience. All of a sudden then they get this cushy job? It’s a little problematic,” Hansen said.

Hansen said he would have no problem if an administrator like current Fresno State President Saul Jimenez-Sandoval exercised his right to withdraw because he is a former professor.

According to Blair, the right to retreat was originally intended for faculty who were on the tenure track to advance in an administration career, such as dean.

Hansen cited Jimenez-Sandoval as an example because he was a tenured professor who rose to dean, then to rector and finally to president.

Other Fresno State professors, such as Thomas Holyoke, agreed with Hansen and were not surprised by the news. Still, Holyoke said he was annoyed that Castro would teach a course on ethics in politics after he supported “another administrator who seemed to have no ethics at all,” referring to Frank Llamas.

Holyoke agreed with Blair that there was a need to change the withdrawal rights policy. The waiver is negotiable, so it had to be approved by former CSU Chancellor Timothy White and the CSU Board of Trustees, even though Castro never taught in the CSU system.

Blair said Castro’s withdrawal rights were “misappropriated” and used as an “incentive to hire superintendents” because he never taught in the CSU system or followed that path.

“It’s demoralizing … I think it’s very demoralizing for the faculty who feel that the leaders in positions of power at CSU are not accountable right now,” she said.

Other faculty members, such as Hansen and Holyoke, said it would have made more sense for Castro to retire to a smaller position at CSU or return to a student services position because he was solely involved in administration.

“It’s clear that … the CSU Board of Trustees has basically created these ‘sweetheart deals’ for executives over the years. In some cases, they are allowed, when they retire or resign, to become consultants in our universities. And they are overpaid,” Blair said.

Blair gave the example of former Fresno State President John D. Welty, who took over as a consultant to the CSU after his retirement from the presidency, she said. She said that’s another reason reform has to happen because the CSU is paying millions of dollars to executives upon their resignation or retirement.

An executive who has performed poorly or resigned amid controversy, such as Castro, should not receive a tenured professorship. She also added that their contracts shouldn’t have these other guarantees, but instead have to follow some kind of ethical code.

Hansen shared similar sentiments with Blair.

“I think if someone is fired for cause, then they probably shouldn’t have the right to severance … If they abuse their power or refuse to do their job in good faith and allow people to misbehave and even break the law, what , what Frank Lamas was accused of, I don’t think there should be a comfortable job after that,” he said.

Hansen said if an administrator has the right to opt out of a particular department, that department should also have the right to opt out of its contract. He said new hires, even if part-time, must go through an evaluation process and be reviewed each semester.

He said he would rather have Castro go through the process than be offered the permanent position.

“If there was a process, it is possible [Castro] will still be hired and invited to the department. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine because I think he can do the job. [But] I don’t have a problem with that… What about the next guy with no teaching experience at all?” Hansen said.

Holyoke also said he would like to see more input from faculty when it comes to withdrawal rights.

“I think administrators should only have the right to opt out in the department that originally gave them the right to opt out at CSU, or I guess there could be opt out rights back to the department where the faculty in that department voted to give them right of withdrawal to this administrator. ” he said.

CFA is currently working with the Cal Poly chapter to listen to faculty concerns about Castro’s decision, Blair said. They didn’t have any information about whether Castro would join and had to accept the fact that he would be teaching there, she said.

That’s why there have been calls for reform, because it’s a problem with the CSU system, Blair added.

“This is a very common practice in the CSU. Even in cases where presidents or chancellors have had to resign due to misconduct or mishandling, they still receive such payments as part of their contracts, so it’s not just Castro. This is a bigger problem,” she said.

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