ASCLUG asks university president questions about staffing cuts, Title IX

Isabella Breda and Lindsey Potter

Listen to the audio from the meeting here.

Associated Students of California Lutheran University Government representatives asked Cal Lutheran President Lori Varlotta about diversity initiatives, commencement, social media posts regarding sexual assault on campus and furloughs during a Zoom meeting Monday, Feb. 22.

During the 40-minute Q & A session, sophomore Senator Zaria Opara asked Varlotta what the university was doing to “hopefully solve that and hopefully change the future” of how Title IX cases are handled on campus after Cal Lutheran alumni shared their negative experiences on social media.

“I’m going to talk in the hypothetical… We can’t set the story straight because [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] prohibits us from sharing confidential information,” Varlotta said during the meeting.

Earlier on Feb. 22, the class of 2021 received an email from the Office of the President that outlined the proposed format for graduation that is tentatively scheduled on May 8 for Traditional Undergraduate students and May 15 for Graduate and Professional students.

Varlotta said she credits the Academic Affairs staff and her assistant, Rian Curley, for identifying a venue for the ceremonies.

Commencement is slated to be held at the Ventura County Fairgrounds and graduates will be able to “bring a carload of friends and families [and] depending on what tier we’re in you’ll be able to walk across the stage,” Varlotta said in the Zoom meeting.

Class of 2020 graduates will also be able to attend either ceremony. “We’re sending out a survey and if they want to come back–since they were cheated out of a face-to-face graduation last fall–we’re doing everything we can to accommodate them as well,” Varlotta said.

Senate Director Garrett Wyatt asked President Varlotta why the furloughs that were implemented in the fall semester hit those who work closely with students the hardest and didn’t affect those who receive the highest salaries, such as the cabinet.

“But those are the kinds of sacrifices that we [the cabinet] made–we took a retirement cut and we’re working six or seven days a week. Can I justify not cutting it further? I can. I can,” Varlotta said.

Varlotta said the furloughs of staff who work closest with students were a result of less than 400 students residing on campus.

“I’m sorry that it turned out that they were people that you knew,” Varlotta said.

Despite the staffing cuts, by the end of this semester the university could have a “Chief Diversity Officer” and a “Diversity Expert” to help implement a more inclusive curriculum, Varlotta announced during the meeting.

“We’re in the midst now of working with a consultant to bring in a Chief Diversity Officer… And we’ve also approved funding for a Diversity Expert in Curriculum,” Varlotta said. “So how do we make sure that our curriculum–both in the general education and in various majors–has the type of representation in terms of authors, in terms of first primary sources, in terms of experts, etc. So we’ve hired–we’re in the midst of hiring–two new diversity experts.”

Greg Pimentel, sophomore senator, asked President Varlotta about the potential repercussions of parties involving athletes, referencing the outbreak that resulted from a gathering during fall semester.

“We will hold those who are hosting parties accountable,” Varlotta said. “And those who attend parties will have some consequences, but probably not as much as those who host. So, and if you find out that people are hosting them, if you can let us know.”

This article was updated Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. to include an audio recording of the meeting.