Mary Papazian Resigns as President of San Jose State in Wake of Justice Department Settlement

Mary A. Papazian announced today that she will resign as the president of San José State University at the end of the fall semester, effective Dec. 21.

The announcement came just 16 days after the U.S. Department of Justice said that SJSU “failed to comply in certain respects with Title IX's prohibitions against sex discrimination” in its settlement of sexual harassment claims against the university in connection with actions by former athletic trainer Scott Shaw.

California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro announced today that he will meet with campus stakeholders this fall prior to naming an interim president, which will be followed by a national search for the 31st president of SJSU by the CSU Board of Trustees, its seventh president in the last 20 years.

The next president will have to deal with lingering legal claims, and manage wide-ranging reforms in its athletic programs required by the Justice Department settlement, not to mention dealing with issues of trust, reputation and accountability in the broader community.

“The best interest of the campus continues to be at the forefront of every decision I make. After thoughtful consideration, I have made the decision to step away as president,” Papazian said in a statement. “I truly love this university and believe this choice will allow the focus to be positively and solely on our talented, diverse, and outstanding campus. It has been my great honor and privilege to work with the exceptional SJSU students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners. I am incredibly grateful to the entire SJSU and San José communities for the opportunity to serve at what I consider to be one of the best and most transformational universities in the country. Thank you.”

Papazian became the 30th president and third woman to lead the university on July 1, 2016, and her legacy of building significant partnerships with Silicon Valley tech companies that enhanced the reputation and resources of San Jose State remains forever touched by a scandal that began in 2009 with the first allegations of inappropriate behavior by Shaw with the Spartan women's swimming team. The trainer was cleared of charges by the university at the time, but subsquent allegations prompted new investigations by federal authorities.

The FBI acknowledged this summer that it was investigating charges against Shaw, who resigned in 2020. The university's civil settlement with the Justice Department over Title IX violations was announced Sept. 21.

In making the announcement of Papazian's abrupt departure, the university added: "The health and safety of the SJSU campus community remains a priority for President Papazian and SJSU. President Papazian will continue to cooperate with the ongoing external Title IX Procedural Investigation and investigations surrounding former SJSU Director of Sports Medicine Scott Shaw."

“This transition does not impact our intention and obligation to understand what occurred and how the university responded at the time,” Papazian said  in her statement. “I made a promise to our community and to the affected student-athletes and their families, and I plan to honor it. My heart, apologies and prayers continue to be with those student-athletes who suffered a breach of trust during their time at the university.”

“President Papazian’s decision to resign from the presidency reflects her compassionate leadership,” said Castro in a statement. “While professionally and personally difficult, this step demonstrates her commitment to the university moving forward. We are grateful for the innovative educational services and cutting-edge resources that she and her team have put into place, which have positioned San José State University as a transformational higher learning institution.”

“I, along with our Board of Trustees, am grateful for Dr. Papazian’s dedication to San José State University,” stated Lillian Kimbell, Chair of the Board. “President Papazian’s commitment to providing equitable student-educational services is illustrated by SJSU’s graduation rates climbing during her tenure, and the average debt remaining far below the national average. During her tenure, SJSU has amplified its research and technology partnerships in Silicon Valley and nationwide to offer its students unique resources at the university.”

San Jose State had told the Justice Department that while it disputed the findings, it would agree to settle the case to avoid a protracted legal battle over “disputed issues,” according to DOJ officials.

Federal investigators concluded that 23 SJSU student athletes were inappropriately touched by Shaw when he was the athletic trainer. Shaw resigned in September 2020. Of these, 13 have accepted the university’s settlement offer to date, according to officials.

The scandal at the university began in 2009 when Spartans swim coach Sage Hopkins first brought forward the allegations of inappropriate touching of female swimmers by Shaw during massage sessions.

The Justice Department found that SJSU failed for more than a decade to respond adequately to reports of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, of female student-athletes by “an athletic trainer then working at SJSU.” The report did not mention Shaw. “Beginning in 2009," the federal report said, "female student-athletes reported that the trainer subjected them to repeated, unwelcome sexual touching of their breasts, groins, buttocks, and/or pubic areas during treatment in the campus training facilities.”

The department concluded that for years, continuing under Papazian's watch, SJSU’s ineffective response “exposed additional student-athletes to harm.”

The department also determined that SJSU had retaliated against two SJSU employees. The first employee repeatedly alerted school officials to the threat the athletic trainer posed, and the second employee expressed opposition to retaliating against the reporting employee and was terminated by SJSU. The department and SJSU entered into a comprehensive agreement to address the findings of the investigation, which began in June 2020.

“No student should be subjected to sexual harassment at a college or university in our country, especially by an employee who wields a position of power,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said Sept. 21. “With this agreement, San José State University will provide relief to survivors and transform its Title IX process to ensure accountability in its athletics program and create a safer campus for all its students.”
Clarke thanked current and former students who came forward and shared their experiences, and the employees “who unceasingly advocated for their students.”

“Because of them, San José State University will adopt major reforms to prevent such an abuse of authority from happening ever again,” she said.

Federal investigators said they reviewed thousands of pages of university documents, including documents related to the 2009-10 and 2020-21 investigations into allegations against Shaw, whome it did not name, as well as the related retaliation against SJSU Athletics employees.

In announcing Papazian's resignation, the university today said that, "Based on the SJSU external 2019-20 investigation findings and the DOJ findings," the outgoing SJSU president has taken the following steps.

  • SJSU restructured and expanded its Title IX office, including the addition of new Title IX experts.
    • The team, among others, will include the just announced experienced Title IX and Gender Equity Officer (“Title IX coordinator”), responsible for overseeing compliance with, and implementation of, all Title IX-related policies, grievance procedures, and training at SJSU. The Title IX coordinator will oversee the deputy Title IX coordinator and other Title IX personnel and liaisons.
    • The Title IX Office has received a significant increase in funding to: recruit and hire a new Title IX coordinator, deputy Title IX coordinator, a minimum of two qualified Title IX investigators and an administrative assistant; enhance response to reports of sex discrimination; develop informational materials; and conduct outreach to the SJSU community.
  • SJSU has launched a new Wellbeing Attendant (chaperone) Policy to ensure both student-athletes and sports medicine staff have a right to request that a Wellbeing Attendant be present for any type of sports medicine treatment.
  • SJSU is enhancing education and orientation programs focused on sexual assault prevention, reporting options, and resources for survivors, witnesses, and bystanders.

27 Comments

  1. The university disputes the Justice Department’s findings, it agreed to settle the case to avoid a protracted legal battle. Seriously?

    As this article reads, nobody has been held accountable for the mismanagement, criminal coverup and retaliation against the two people who actually cared to stop it.

    WTF were the imbeciles in the Title IX department doing during the decade this monster molested female athletes?

    Letting the a president resign and not punishing the legions of people who were aware of the issue and did nothing to stop it sure sends a strong message of holding people to account.

    So, we are now going to expand Title IX, despite the fact they are incompetent, criminal and unaccountable for their actions(or lack of).

    Looks like everybody wins but the female athletes.

  2. I saw my son briefly two years ago. I barely recognize him.

    He is no longer the person that I knew.

    My ex attorney told me the truth when she predicted that my kids would be “finished.”

    Those scars looked deep enough to last a lifetime. I can only imagine the fate of the other three.

  3. What happened to Ms. Papazian is an anomaly. We live in a society that tolerates some level of rape.

    If it wasn’t the case, the District Attorney would have done something to protect my children.

    If it wasn’t the case, the Family Court Judge would have ordered an emergency screening at the moment that I provided the verification of molestation.

  4. If it wasn’t the case we wouldn’t have had 27+ victims at SJSU.

    If it wasn’t the case, the high school track coach wouldn’t have sexually abused so many victims.

    If it wasn’t the case, the Blossom Hill Elementary School teacher would have been fired 20 years ago.

    Society can’t have it both ways. You can tolerate some sexual abuse, then expect to go away.

    There would have to be zero tolerance from ever single person in a position of power if there is going to be some kind of meaningful reduction.

  5. You also can’t have people being retaliated against.

    Who is going to report it if people are getting fired?

    Who is going to report it if people come after you and assault you for trying to protect your children?

    Santa Clara County is setting a terrible and dangerous precedent,

  6. Everyone is looking the other way.

    But it will trickle down.

    People are learning what is possible.

    People are also learning to tolerate it.

  7. If our elected leaders can’t even protect my kids, Ms. Papazian’s resignation means nothing.

    Our elected officials litigate and adjudicate such matters. They set the example.

  8. The lives of people need to be valued more than what goes on some report.

    My kids are already paid a big price. I don’t understand how the judge and DA can double down and force it to continue happening.

    Then we wonder why Ms. Papazian did the same.

  9. Silence can be equated to approval.

    The entire Board of Supervisors, the District Attorney’s Office, and County Counsel won’t say a peep.

    Now they expect for a change in the cover up of sexual abuse in our institutions?

    If they do that to my kids, they do that to yours.

  10. Now they have resorted to making filings on my behalf by way of hacking and email.

    I can’t view what was filed, so I have no idea how the aforementioned petition was amended.

    I the clerk, Dianne Quindiagan, to remove whatever had been filed – but she refuses to do so.

    Once the cover up begins, it is difficult to stop the avalanche.

  11. Dear Ms. Quindiagan,

    My children have shown strong signs of being molested. My oldest son has already confirmed it.

    Please reject the filing previous to the last one that was filed by sending an email, as it was fraudulently filed by someone who wants to cover up the abuse.

    Sincerely,

    Ben Z.

    (screenshot and URL mailed to [email protected])

  12. It’s all about appearances. Why should they care?

    “We are the upper class. You are nothing. Your kids can suffer.

    It’s no big deal since we are so important. One of us is worth 423,432,432 of your kids. “

  13. They say a few lines for the camera and act like they care.

    No harm. No foul.

    The kids will get over it.

  14. I met a San Jose Police Community Officer last March. He helped me because my car broke down.

    The officer told that he left SJSU because of the corruption. He said that he preferred his new job because he was able to help people.

    I didn’t know anything about the scandal back then and he didn’t elaborate.

    Doing something difficult always gets easier with time. It must have been completely effortless by the 27th person.

    I don’t remember his name, but SJSU should consider hiring him back if he left for that reason.

  15. I don’t know what the big deal is.

    Why can’t I view the petition that is going to be ruled on?

    Since they refuse to post it in the record for viewing, I asked them to make an appointment so that I can view it in person. The Court’s website says that it is possible. https://www.courts.ca.gov/6dca.htm

    So far I am being ignored.

  16. Ms. Papazian is just the tip of the iceberg.

    27 people and the Mayor expressed only sadness to see her go.

    I feel bad for her. too.

    But the message is clear.

  17. The courts have become a place that adjudicate favoritism instead of behavior.

    The first step is to delineate the statuses of the victim and perpetrator.

    The value after the discrepancy is calculated is then multiplied by the value of the crime. Crimes such as murder or child molestation can be assigned a fraction of what the law dictates.

    You can also play with the equation by assigning the values for the crime and perpetrator to reduce the value of victim .

  18. Give a value of zero to murder victims and children who are molested, and the perpetrator can “do anything [they] want, whenever [they] want.”

  19. Ms. Papazian must have had a zero assigned for her students, or she doesn’t believe that sexual abuse is serious.

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