Public Colleges Need More Democracy, Not More Administration

tags: higher education

Larry Hanley is a professor of literature at San Francisco State University.

Vida Samiian is visiting researcher at UCLA, and Professor and Dean Emerita at CSU Fresno.

The current crisis in higher education leadership is on full display at California State University (CSU) — the nation’s largest four-year public university system. Take the case of former CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro.

Castro’s problems began with an underling — Fresno State’s Vice President of Student Affairs Frank Lamas — who was the subject of ongoing sexual harassment complaints and investigations. In 2018, Castro “enthusiastically” nominated his colleague to become the next president of CSU San Marcos. But later, as complaints about his VP’s behavior avalanched, Castro authorized a $260,000 payout and retirement package for the troubled subordinate. The sweetheart deal included a glowing recommendation letter. That’s golden parachute number one.

When these actions came to light last winter, Castro was forced to end his brief reign as chief administrative officer at CSU. Despite a rather ignominious departure, Castro received more than $400,000 “to advise” the CSU board of trustees for a year and, even without a glowing letter of recommendation, he retains the right to a high-salaried, tenured faculty position at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Say “hello” to golden parachute number two.

In what sounds like an episode of “The Real Presidents of Cal State” or a “Game of Thrones” spinoff, within the past month, CSU signed a check for $600,000 to a former provost to quietly settle retaliation and sexual harassment allegations made against the husband of Sonoma State’s president, Judy Sakaki. The claim was settled just weeks before Sakaki and other CSU presidents met with a key state legislator to express their qualms over Castro’s leadership of the system.

These cases are not exceptions. For top CSU administrators, golden parachutes and insider dealing are the rule. As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, more than $4 million in salary and benefits has been paid out in recent years to former high-level administrators. CSU started its “executive transition” program in 1981; it has since been expanded three times. Castro’s predecessor as CSU chancellor, Tim White, receives $327,000 a year for two years plus a $24,000 car allowance. Executives in the program are typically “transitioned” into well-paying tenure-track faculty jobs. California’s state auditor has noted that these arrangements lack transparency and recommended that CSU do a better job of oversight. One beneficiary of the program recently informed a Los Angeles Times reporter that “she was not required to document her work performed under the program.” As students and faculty at the nation’s largest public university system struggle with a pandemic, skyrocketing costs of living, and major disruptions to teaching and learning, CSU continues to subsidize no-show jobs and secret deals for its managerial elite.

Read entire article at Truthout

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