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Chico State president apologizes for handling of professor's affair and alleged violent threats

Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson.
Chico State
Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson.

On the eve of a special Academic Senate meeting on campus safety, Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon, apologizing to the campus for her administration’s handling of biology professor David Stachura’s sexual affair with a graduate student and his alleged threats to shoot two professors who aided in an investigation of him.

While the Academic Senate announced the special meeting for Wednesday at noon, no agenda was posted as of 4:30 p.m. Professors had tweeted during the day that a no-confidence vote on Hutchinson and campus Provost Debra Larson will be attempted at the meeting.

Hutchinson’s statement came the day after a campuswide meeting Monday that she called “heartbreaking” in which she was widely criticized for the handling of the Stachura matter. A biology lecturer said at the meeting that Stachura had spoken to her of weapons, hollow point bullets, and a mass shooting. Separately, his wife had told a Superior Court judge in writing last year that Stachura had said he wanted to kill the two professors.

In her strongest statement since EdSource reported on Stachura last week, Hutchinson said, “new-to-us information was uncovered (Monday). We will follow up and investigate threats to employees and students. This is unacceptable behavior and will not be tolerated.” The statement, entitled “Reflections on Yesterday’s Open Forum,” was distributed on campus via email. EdSource obtained a copy.

Hutchinson, who on Oct. 11announced her retirement at the end of the academic year, declined EdSource’s interview request. When named president in 2016, Hutchinson became the first female president of Chico State in its 135-year history and the first openly gay president of the California State University system.

Stachura, who is on a 60-day suspension, has been stripped of access to the university’s systems and is banned from campus, she said. He “no longer has access to students’ and employees’ physical addresses and phone numbers.” A different professor will grade his classes.

Professor Lindsay Briggs, of the Department of Public Health & Health Services Administration, was one of those advocating on social media Tuesday for a no-confidence vote.

“Our campuses and colleges are irate,” she said in a phone interview. “Everyone is deeply appalled. People are more angry than I have ever seen in my 11 years at Chico State.”

Thomas Peele is an investigative reporter at EdSource. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter.
EdSource believes that access to a quality education is an important right of all children. We further believe that an informed, involved public is necessary to strengthen California’s schools for the benefit of the state’s children, its civic life, and its economy.