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Chico State president supports call for CSU to investigate university's probe of professor's affair and alleged threats

The fall color of the autumn season near the Student Services Center (SSC) on Friday, November 18, 2022 in Chico, Calif.
Jason Halley
California State University, Chico
The fall color of the autumn season near the Student Services Center (SSC) on Friday, November 18, 2022 in Chico, Calif.

Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson said in a statement Tuesday that she supports calls for California State University to conduct an independent investigation of how the campus dealt with a suspended biology professor’s affair with a student and his alleged threats of violence.

In what she called “a quieter time on campus” following a week of tumultuous reaction to EdSource’s reporting on Dec. 8 that professor David Stachura allegedly threatened to kill two professors who cooperated in an investigation of the alleged affair, Hutchinson said she would do “all that I can with the Chancellor’s Office and the board of trustees to expedite the request for independent investigations.”

A spokesperson for the Chancellor’s Office did not immediately respond to an email late Tuesday. The CSU system, the nation’s largest public university, is conducting an audit of how its 23 campuses investigate sexual and gender harassment cases. That stems from the February resignation of Chancellor Joseph I. Castro following revelations that as president of Fresno State he mishandled sexual harassment allegations involving an administrator.

Hutchinson said other faculty have taken on Stachura’s student and research assignments. He remains suspended and banned from campus. He is no longer listed in the campus’ online directory or the biology department’s webpage.

The school’s Academic Senate voted late Friday to formally ask the CSU Board of Trustees to investigate the Stachura matter. Immediately following the vote, campus Provost Debra Larson, who approved a settlement with Stachura that lightly disciplined him for the affair,resigned.

Stachura has denied the affair with the student and the alleged threats, which were first made public in August 2021 in court filings by his estranged wife.

Hutchinson wrote Tuesday that as Chico State moves “ahead to effectively change policy and culture to provide a safe environment and better support victims, we must rebuild trust.”

Plans are underway “for an all-students session on safety to take place at the beginning of the spring semester,” she said.

The Academic Senate also voted Friday for Stachura’s immediate termination and called for the university to file a request in court for a gun-violence restraining order against Stachura under California’s red flag law. A Chico State spokesman, Andrew Staples, said Tuesday that the university is “evaluating the various options with respect to restraining orders.”

On Monday, speaking at a campuswide meeting, a biology department lecturer, Betsey Tamietti, who described herself as Stachura’s confidant, said he spoke of a shooting spree in the biology department last year. Stachura told her, ‘”If I wanted people dead, they’d be dead. I’m a doer,”‘ she said. She said he threatened her to remain silent.

Hutchinson described Tamietti’s statement last week as “new information.” But others have since come forward and said they knew of the threats and reported them last year.

EdSource reported Sunday that Tamietti and a professor who later left Chico State said they reported what Stachura allegedly told Tamiette to David Hassenzahl, dean of the College of Natural Sciences last year. The dean has not returned messages from EdSource.

Asked how Hutchinson’s description of last week’s public statements as new information squares with Tamiette and the professor saying they already reported the threat to Hassenzahl, Staples replied, “We are investigating every aspect of this matter.”

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.