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Chico State names interim provost; former provost remains on board despite 'immediate' resignation

Stephen Perez
San Jose State
Stephen Perez

n interim provost has been appointed at Chico State following the resignation of former provost Debra Larson in December, which she announced at the end of an Academics Senate meeting that called for an investigation into the university’s Title IX procedures.

However, Larson — who announced her retirement Dec. 16 in a move the university said was “effective immediately” — will remain on board in an advisory role, reporting directly to her interim successor.

In a campus letter Friday, Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson announced that Stephen Perez, interim president at San Jose State since January 2022, will be joining Chico State as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs beginning Jan. 17.

According to the letter, Larson will report to Perez for several months while she works towards retirement.

When Larson announced her immediate resignation Dec. 16, she said she had been planning to retire and move east to help care for ill family members. University Communications did not mention she would continue to be employed in the official announcement of her resignation.

The Dec. 16 release issued by the school said, “As a two-time cancer survivor and caregiver for her family, she (Larson) came to the realization during the fall break that her need to prioritize her health, her mother, and her daughter’s family meant she could not delay her decision to move back to Minnesota any longer.”

At the time, Larson also denied her resignation was because of the situation surrounding biology professor David Stachura, who was suspended by the university Dec. 9. That suspension followed a Dec. 8 EdSource story reporting Stachura had allegedly threatened to shoot two colleagues who had cooperated in an investigation against him for having an inappropriate relationship with a graduate student. Larson did, however, say the case “has certainly impacted me.”

The Academic Senate meeting that ended with Larson’s retirement announcement was held to discuss Chico State’s handling of the Stachura investigation. Some members of the senate wanted to hold a vote of no-confidence on Larson, but it did not happen.

Chico State public relations manager Andrew Staples said Larson will continue to be employed by the university until May 31.

“Due to a communication error, (Larson’s employment) was unclear in the message from President Hutchinson that she sent out on Dec. 16,” Staples said, adding that the distinction of her continued employment should have been added.

Hutchinson wrote that a permanent provost will be appointed by her successor, the next president of Chico State. On Oct. 11, 2022, Hutchinson announced she was retiring at the end of the 2022-23 academic school year.

Perez had previously served as the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sacramento State and taught macroeconomics at the school beginning in 2001, the letter said.

During Perez’s tenure at San Jose State, students had called for the university to hire additional staff in the Title IX office and to produce quarterly reports for better transparency between the university and students, according to news reports.

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.