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CSU system finalizes process for finding new chancellor

The CSU Board of Trustees has finalized the process for choosing a new chancellor for the Cal State University system, almost 11 months after the public institution’s previous permanent leader resigned amid allegations he mishandled sexual harassment complaints against a former administrator.

The 23-campus CSU system announced that the trustees had nailed down the process to find — and officially launched the search for — a new chancellor on Thursday, Jan. 5.

While the Board of Trustees will have the final say on the next chancellor, the CSU will create two committees to help determine qualifications and sift through candidates, according to a Thursday press release. The CSU will also host a series of community forums across California early next month.

“This process honors our principles of transparency and inclusivity,” Wenda Fong, chair of the Board of Trustees, said in a statement, “and demonstrates a commitment to collaboration by seeking the broadest possible engagement across CSU constituencies and stakeholder groups as we determine the desired characteristics of our next chancellor.”

The CSU, which is headquartered in Long Beach, is the nation’s largest four-year public university system. It educates about 477,000 students annually across the state, including at several campuses in Los Angeles County, as well as in Fullerton, San Bernardino and elsewhere.

But last year, three different people led the system as chancellor — a stark contrast to the consistency the CSU had during the eight-year tenure, beginning in 2012, of Timothy P. White.

White retired as CSU chancellor at the end of 2020 and was initially succeeded by former Fresno State University President Joseph I. Castro.

At the time, Castro was touted for being the first native Californian, Mexican American and person of color to hold the CSU’s top post.

But in February, allegations surfaced that Castro mishandled sexual harassment complaints against a former administrator and allowed him to quietly retire just before becoming chancellor.

Those allegations led to an uproar against Castro. And even though Castro said, in a February statement, that he disagreed “with many aspects of recent media reports and the ensuing commentary,” he ultimately stepped aside.

He did so, Castro said at the time, so the CSU could “focus squarely on its educational mission and the impactful work yet to be done.”

Steve Relyea, the CSU’s executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer, then stepped into to serve as the system’s temporary leader until the Board of Trustees settled on an interim chancellor.

In March, the board tapped Jolene Koester, former president of Cal State Northridge, to take on the interim position, beginning May 1. Her tenure, officials said at the time, would last 12 months.

Koester remains in that position while the CSU looks for a permanent chancellor.

That process, the CSU said in its Thursday press release, will be “comprehensive and inclusive.”

It’s unclear how long the search will take.

But the process will include folks from every corner of the CSU system serving on one of the two committees tasked with finding the best candidates.

The Implementation Committee will figure out what characteristics the next CSU leader should have and perform the final evaluation of candidates, the press release said.

The committee will boast eight members, five of whom will come from the Board of Trustees, including the chair and vice chair. The other three will be Koester, and one person each from the California State Student Association and the Academic Senate of the CSU.

The Assessment Committee, meanwhile, will conduct initial candidate reviews and assessments, and make recommendations to the Implementation Committee.

Related links

Former CSU chancellor fumbled sexual harassment complaints, probe confirms
Former Cal State Northridge President Jolene Koester tapped as interim CSU chief
CSU chancellor resigns amid firestorm over handling of sexual harassment complaints
Castro named California State University chancellor, first person of color to hold post
CSU Chancellor Timothy White, former UC Riverside chancellor, announces retirement

The assessment panel will have 12 members, four of whom will be trustees, including the faculity and student trustees, the CSU release said. CSSA and the Academic Senate will each get one member. A campus vice president or academic dean, two CSU presidents, one alum and one community member will round out the committee.

After the Implementation Committee selects the top candidates, the full Board of Trustees will then interview those finalists. The panel will vote on which candidate to appoint.

“Our goal is to create the largest and most diverse pool of highly skilled and talented individuals,” Fong said in her statement, “and to identify the single individual best suited to lead the most significant university system in the nation at this very important time for the CSU.”

The CSU will soon launch a webpage with information dedicated to the search for a new chancellor, the system said. That webpage will include the full rosters for both committees and a schedule of next month’s public forums.

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