Fresno State forms Title IX task force

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new Title IX task force is Fresno State's latest response to claims that the university's former president mishandled complaints of harassment and abusive workplace conduct.

"This is an unfortunate situation that we had to deal with but we are learning from it and we are moving forward," said Fresno State University President Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval.

It's been two months since a USA Today investigation exposed evidence that former Fresno State President Joseph Castro allegedly mishandled complaints of sexual harassment and abusive workplace conduct by then vice president for student affairs, Frank Lamas.

RELATED: Fresno State paid top administrator to leave after sexual harassment confirmed

This week, Fresno State's Academic Senate passed several related resolutions, including cutting ties with Castro and acknowledging the harm that resulted from the sexual harassment by Frank Lamas.

Despite an independent investigation concluding Lamas' faults, Castro authorized a $260,000 payout and a letter of recommendation to help Lamas find work at another school. Castro resigned from his post as CSU Chancellor shortly after the story broke after many called for him to do so.

"We need to know through this investigation what happened, what are the main elements of it, what were the parties involved, who acted on what, what was not acted upon," said Dr. Jiménez-Sandoval.

While an investigation is handled at the state level, Dr. Jiménez-Sandoval says the university is moving forward to find its own solutions, specifically with a Title IX task force. It is made up of 20 members including faculty, staff, advocates, and students in partnership with a private consulting firm.

The task force will be chaired by Dr. Dean Bernadette Muscat, Dean of Undergraduate Studies. Dr. Muscat says a better reporting system and resources are the group's goal.

RELATED: California State University trustees launch independent investigation into Fresno State

"So that they know that they can speak and that they will be heard," she said. "And that there is a process with consequences in place for them."

President Jiménez-Sandoval admits the process to report harassment and misconduct is not as clear as it could be.

"I don't know that right now we have that system," he said. "I think it's a little fuzzy in people's minds and we want to make it crystal clear."

Student Body President D'Aungillique Jackson says an accessible reporting process wasn't something that existed on campus when she worked alongside Dr. Llamas several years ago as a student assistant.

"I remember hearing some comments that he would make to my boss and being told like, please don't say anything because I am at will and he can remove me if he sees fit," she said.

Jackson will be one of the four students serving on the task force. It's a role that she knows could have an impact on how complaints are handled at other CSUs in the future.

RELATED: CSU Chancellor Dr. Joseph Castro resigns amid criticism over handling of harassment at Fresno St.

"We deserve to be on this task force just as much as anybody else," said Jackson. "We are not children in this situation. We are adults at the table just like everyone else."

The task force will begin its work on April 22. Throughout the process, they will be calling on student involvement and hope to bring forth recommendations publicly by July.
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