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CSU Chancellor’s Office will oversee outside investigation of biology professor’s sex case, alleged threats

California State University, Chico.
Jason Halley
California State University, Chico
California State University, Chico.

Chico State officials will choose an outside investigator to probe how the school handled matters involving suspended biology professor David Stachura, but the California State University’s chancellor’s office will oversee the work, an official said Thursday.

“The chancellor’s office will coordinate and oversee the investigation,” Michael Uhlenkamp, a CSU system spokesman wrote in an email Thursday. It was not immediately clear when the selection would be made and the work started.

Edsource reported Dec. 8 that state court records show Stachura allegedly told his estranged wife he wanted to kill two professors who cooperated in an investigation that found he had a sexual affair with a graduate student who he supervised, a violation of CSU policy. Chico State officials looked into the alleged threat, suspended Stachura, and let him return to work. The alleged threat was not disclosed to the campus.

A Chico State lecturer said at an online campus forum on Dec. 12 that Stachura also made violent threats to her, saying, “If I wanted you guys dead, you’d be dead. I am a doer.”

The lecturer, Betsy Tamietti, also said he told her, “’If I do go on a shooting spree, maybe I’ll pass your office. I am not sure.’” Tamietti later told EdSource that she reported the threats in 2021 to the dean of the College of Natural Sciences. A professor who has since left the university also said she had reported what she’d heard about the threat.

University officials in December called Tamietti’s revelation new information that would be investigated.

The revelation roiled the campus of 13,00o students, with both students and faculty expressing outrage at both the sex revelation and the alleged threats, saying the university had not been transparent about possible campus violence.

Stachura was suspended with pay for 60 days on Dec. 9. Chico State spokesman Andrew Staples wouldn’t say what’s next for Stachura when the suspension runs its course next week. “The employee is currently on leave,” he said Thursday.

Chico State President Gayle Hutchison has said in numerous statements that Stachura won’t teach in the Spring semester and is banned from campus. The school’s academic senate voted in December to ask the school to obtain a gun-violence restraining order against Stachura. That has yet to happen. “The University continues to evaluate its legal options,” Staples said.

Stachura, an expert in fish cells, had sex with the graduate student in his office in 2020, an investigation found. A professor in an adjoining office told an investigator that she heard the sex through the wall. Another said she found Stachura and the student in his office with the room reeking of sex and a futon open to a bed. A professor also said she saw Stachura and the student kissing in his laboratory. Both Stachura and the student denied they had a sexual affair, records show.

Chico State settled the sex case with Stachura by suspending him without pay for a third of a semester. Shortly after he was promoted to full professor and named the school’s “outstanding professor” of the 2020-21 academic year. The award was rescinded in December. Provost Debra Larson, who approved the settlement, resigned in September, but is working as a consultant to her replacement until May.

Stachura’s estranged wife later sought a restraining order against him in 2021 in the midst of a contentious divorce. In a declaration filed in Butte County Superior Court, she told a judge that Stachura threatened to shoot the two professors. He “confided in me that he had purchased (a) semi-automatic shotgun, a handgun, and hollow-point bullets to kill his two co-workers and then himself.” Stachura, she told the court, “said he was planning on shooting them.”

In court filings and in an interview with EdSource, Stachura denied making the threats.

A receipt from a Chico gun store filed as an exhibit in the restraining order case showed Stachura bought hollow-point pistol ammunition and 50 rounds of .12 gauge buckshot on Oct. 15, 2021 – the day he received notice that his appeal of the findings in the sex investigation was rejected by the CSU chancellor’s office. In an interview with EdSoruce he twice said he didn’t remember the purchase, then said he did recall it, and that the timing was a coincidence. The munitions, he said, were for home protection.

He did not immediately respond to a message Thursday.

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.