- “A Cal State dean groped two colleagues. ‘Retreat rights’ made him unfireable,” USA Today, April 18, 2022. (subscription only) (or via Yahoo News!)
This morning, USA Today published the results of a months-long investigation into claims of sexual harassment by one professor at Cal Poly Humboldt, which allegedly took place while that professor held the post of Dean of Humboldt State’s College of Professional Studies.
The story – about Professor John Lee, who now teaches in the Education Department – uses the case to illustrate a CSU-wide problem with so-called “retreat rights,” which can be written into university administrators’ contracts. These “retreat rights” give the administrator the right to a full-time faculty job in the event that they are fired.
Lee was fired from Humboldt State in 2016 after the university upheld sexual harassment claims – including unwanted kissing and “groping” – filed by two of his colleagues, USA Today reports. Upon his termination, he exercised the “retreat rights” clause in his contract and, after three months of paid leave, took up his post as an education professor at the top of the salary range for that job.
USA Today reporter Kenny Jacoby quotes a Cal Poly Humboldt spokesperson as saying that it has since reformed the “retreat rights” clause to specifically state that the job guarantee would not apply in cases of personal misconduct – though the paper says it has found examples of contracts that still contain the unmodified clause – and a spokesperson for the CSU Chancellor’s office says that the Lee case illustrates that it’s time for systemwide reform of such contracts.
This morning’s story follows on a previous USA Today investigation, which found cases of hushed-up sexual harassment at Cal State Fresno under then-President Joseph Castro, who is now chancellor of the CSU system. [CORRECTION: Who WAS chancellor of the CSU system. He resigned in the wake of USA Today’s story.]