Interim chancellor named as Castro controversy lingers

By Ryan Huynh and Matthew Acosta, Apr. 19, 2022

The California State University trustees appointed Jolene Koester as the new interim chancellor of the 23-campus university system on March 23 in the wake of former Chancellor Joseph Castro’s resignation. Koester, who was previously the president of Cal State Northridge, will be the second woman ever to lead the CSU system. 

Koester will be the interim chancellor until a new permanent candidate is confirmed, replacing Castro after he resigned in February for mishandling sexual harassment complaints against Fresno State’s vice president of student affairs during Castro’s time as campus president. 

Courtesy of the CSU

 “I am deeply humbled by the opportunity to serve as interim chancellor,” Koester said. “The commitment of our world-class faculty, staff, administrators, executives and trustees deeply aligns with my values to provide life-changing educational opportunities for our students. I look forward to learning and providing my skills to guide the university during this transformational time in CSU history.” 

Koester will begin her term on May 1 lasting for about one year until a permanent chancellor is selected by the Board of Trustees. Koester herself is not in the running for the permanent position, opting to step down once her 12-month chancellorship is finished.  

During the March 22 Board of Trustees meeting, the California Faculty Association demanded that the search for a new chancellor be open to students and faculty since, historically, such proceedings have occurred behind closed doors. The circumstances around Castro’s hiring, staff shuffling and resignation have resulted in calls for increased transparency of the hiring process.  

The board also approved financial details for Koester that were criticized when they were afforded to Castro when he resigned. Koester will keep the same salary of $625,000, a monthly housing allowance of $7,917 and $1,000 a month in auto allowances.  

 Regarding retreat rights benefits that were afforded to Castro, Koester was eligible for the program at the time of her departure from CSUN, but she was not offered the same benefits when she was appointed as interim chancellor.

The board also stated that no newly hired executives such as chancellors, vice-chancellors or campus presidents, will be granted the opportunity to participate in the CSU’s existing executive transition program. This follows controversy in response to Castro’s $400,000-compensation package he received when he resigned from his position.  

 “The CSU will develop a systemwide policy to create consistency and clarity on retreat rights for administrators in addition to a policy on letters of recommendation for administrators,” read a CSU press release. “The policies will be brought forth to the trustees for review and approval at an upcoming meeting of the board (in May).” 

This will also be in addition to the system-wide Title IX review that will occur sometime later in the year, the specifics of which have still not been discussed other than its continuous mentioning.  

The Board of Trustees meeting, held in a hybrid format, also allowed members of the CSU community to voice their opinions and concerns about the ongoing situation of Castro stepping down.  

This, along with pay concerns, led many members of the audience to share their takes about the process and system’s way of handling the situation.  

“How is it possible that Joseph Castro and others are receiving major pay raises, while disgraced Joseph Castro covered up sexual assaults under his watch. Meanwhile, essential workers have been bargaining for fair pay since 2019,” said Fresno State student Alyssa Smith during the public comment section of the board meeting. “They worked throughout the entire pandemic, and some were even laid off. Shame on you all and give your workers what they deserve and pay them now.” 

Though the money remained a heavy focus of speakers, this also opened discourse as many programs throughout the CSU community lack adequate funding.  

Brianna Peterson, an intern at Cal State Monterey Bay, discussed some of the ramifications that giving out this type of payout can have.  

“I am disgusted that while students sleep in their cars and while fees are being raised across the CSU system, Castro is making it out of this mess with a $400,000 payout,” said Peterson. “That money is not deserved.” 

The next Board of Trustees meeting is on May 24.  

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