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Statement From President Virjee

The Los Angeles Times has published a story regarding CSU’s process for investigating reports and complaints pursuant to Title IX. It contains intentionally sensationalized language based on unverified, and unsubstantiated information. The unverified third-party intake reports are about a hug or the brushing of my hand against someone’s arm or back while on a campus tour with and in front of a large group of people. It is important to note that our Title IX officer takes any reports received seriously. As someone who has spent much of his career advocating for and creating policies related to Title IX and sexual harassment protections, I do as well.

It is also important to note, however, that the unsubstantiated intake reports were provided by third parties, not by those involved, and that despite outreach by our Title IX officer to the students identified — offering both support services and information regarding how to file a complaint — no one involved in any of the described interactions ever requested services, sought an investigation, or filed a complaint, despite being expressly offered the means and assistance to do so. Instead, in all instances, the potential complainant declined to respond to any attempt to contact them and/or specifically declined to participate in any way in any investigation.

The simple truth is that, even on their face, the third-party intake reports were unreliable. As described in these reports, the interactions occurred in public areas and in front of multiple third parties, including in two instances, a state legislator (who has specifically shared that he saw nothing inappropriate) and his staff, as well as campus employees. Yet, none of those witnesses (or any potential complainant) provided verification of the interactions as described in the reports, sought an investigation, or filed a complaint, despite being given the express opportunity to do so. Just as importantly, in reviewing the descriptions in the reports, the Title IX officer determined that the described conduct, even if taken as true, did not violate any CSU policy and closed each of the matters.

Any suggestion that I have ever acted in violation of Title IX or any university or system policy is misguided and, frankly, offensive. As a university president and as an employment lawyer by training and practice for more than 40 years, I understand clearly that one must be respectful, kind, and act with integrity, especially in the workplace. I always strive to do just that. Despite the Times’ mischaracterizations, I have never been found to have violated Title IX or any CSU policy.

Instead, as very clearly stated by the CSU Chancellor and the Chancellor’s Office “There have been no substantiated allegations of Title IX violations or other misconduct against President Virjee during his tenure at CSUF, or when he served as the executive vice chancellor and general counsel of the CSU.”

To assure accuracy for its story, I provided the Los Angeles Times both on background and “on the record” with a clear clarification of what happened in these interactions. My “on the record” statement can be found here. I urge you to compare the description set forth in the Times with the one I provided them.

There is an additional point that I want to make very clear. Neither the intake reports referenced by the Times, nor the language in them, was shared with me or my office at the time they were made or at any time until they were requested years later by the Times. If they had been, I could and would have taken direct steps to make sure that all involved were okay, which would have been my primary concern, and then would have provided clarification about the interactions. I was never given that chance and, frankly, feel ambushed today by the failure to share these reports with me at the time. I have spent my time at CSUF working to create a campus of community where Titans feel safe, included, and part of the Titan Family. If any of this information had been shared, I would not only have been flabbergasted and grieved, but I would also have immediately acted to address the concerns raised. This speaks to the need for CSU to revise and improve its Title IX policy, and most importantly, how it processes reports and complaints.

Please know, in our on-campus roles, Julie and I have worked hard to immerse ourselves in the Titan Family, regularly attending events and walking on campus, visiting with students, faculty, and staff. We do this intentionally, to create a more welcoming and inclusive campus environment. As part of this activity, I believe it is imperative that I am as approachable as possible. Hence my request to be referred to as Fram rather than President Virjee, the providing of my cell number to anyone who wants it, my open-door policy to meet with anyone, and my effort to greet all students, faculty and staff in a way that makes them feel at home on our campus. As president, I meet and greet dozens of people a day, and hundreds per week. In all those interactions, it is my goal to make Titans feel seen, welcome, and included. That said, I am by no means perfect. To anyone – and I mean anyone – I might have ever made uncomfortable, that is regrettable and was never my intent. Again, my motive is always to the contrary – to make students feel welcome and included.

I have been blessed to work as both an attorney and university president for 40 years. As an attorney, I have provided hundreds of professional development and training programs regarding Title IX and/or sexual harassment over the course of three decades. I understand the issues, and work hard to respect and honor proper boundaries and expectations of interaction with people, while remaining warm, approachable, and accessible to those I serve, and especially my university community.

In my view, the Los Angeles Times has a responsibility to maintain the highest level of journalistic integrity and ethics, including not publicizing misleading and what are known to be unsubstantiated intake reports regarding any individual as it may cause irreparable reputation damage. For those who read the Times article, I suggest they consider, “there but for the grace of God, go I.”