Sac State provost to depart university, serve as San José State interim president

Steve Perez to take over amid SJSU athletics sexual abuse lawsuit


Ayaana Williams

Provost Steve Perez speaks to the Faculty Senate in the University Union at Sacramento State on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Perez is departing Sac State to become interim president at San José State University, according to a SacSend from President Robert Nelsen. Photo of Perez taken by Rahul Lal. Graphic made in Canva by Ayaana Williams.

Alex Muegge, copy editor

Sacramento State Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Perez will be departing the university effective Jan. 3, 2022, after over 20 years to become interim president at San José State University, according to a SacSend from Sac State President Robert Nelsen.

Perez will take over at SJSU for Mary Papazian, who announced her resignation in early October after the university agreed last month to pay $1.6 million to 13 female student-athletes whose complaints about being sexually assaulted by an athletic trainer, Scott Shaw, were mishandled, according to the Associated Press.

Perez is expected to serve as the interim for approximately one year, and the California State University Board of Trustees “will soon” begin a national search for a permanent replacement, according to a press release from the CSU Office of the Chancellor.

The AP also reported Shaw resigned last year after allegations from these athletes who worked with him from 2006 to 2009 surfaced.

CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro said in a statement to the media from his office that Perez is a “bold leader” who works to improve student achievement.

“His passion for increasing opportunity for all students and his track record of building collaborative relationships with students, faculty and staff will ensure that SJSU continues on its upward trajectory during this time of transition,” Castro said in the statement. 

Perez said to The State Hornet that he looks forward to the position despite a reluctance to comment on his new position until he starts early next year. 

“I’m excited about any opportunity to talk to students,” Perez said. “I hope that I’ve contributed to a culture of caring, a culture of supporting our students…this is a new opportunity to be able to do that at a different level.”

Going forward, Perez said Sac State, while he works here and after, needs to create a culture where the student body “not only is welcome, but knows that they’re welcomed.”

“We try everyday to think of ways and find ways to make that happen,” Perez said. “We need to listen to our students and our colleagues about when and where they may be feeling unwelcome or where they’re having experiences to lead them to that.”

Nelsen said in his email that in wake of Perez’s exit, he has asked Sac State’s current chair of graduate and professional studies, Carlos Nevarez, to serve as interim provost and vice president of academic affairs. 

“Dr. Nevarez is passionate about studying leadership and organizational behavior and the role leaders play in advancing student success,” Nelsen wrote in the email, citing both Nevarez’s doctorate in educational leadership and role as executive editor for Sac State’s Journal of Transformative Leadership and Policy Studies published in November 2020.

Anita Fitzhugh, Sac State public information officer, said that Nelsen would not comment further outside of his remarks in his SacSend.

Nevarez said the three main reasons he wanted to take over as interim provost and vice president of academic affairs are to deepen engagement with the campus community, to advance inclusive campus culture and to support target programs, strategies, policies and initiatives that increase student success.

How can you diversify faculty as you hire new faculty?

— Carlos Nevarez

Regarding Sac State’s anti-racism plan, Nevarez said he thought it was a “good plan” and that it aims to ensure everyone takes responsibility for making everyone feel valued.

“I think this kind of work, you cannot leave it to an office or division,” Nevarez said. “I think past efforts have been ambitious in thinking that maybe a division can…they do great work…but it’s too much to expect from them.”

When asked about his thoughts on Sac State’s failure to retain Black faculty and faculty of color, Nevarez said that he thinks the university can do better. 

RELATED: ‘Stop being afraid’: Black faculty urge Sac State to call out campus racism 

“We can do more work along those lines,” Nevarez said. “How can you diversify faculty as you hire new faculty? One approach is to ensure that there’s diversity in the hiring committee. I would say the greater administration needs to be vigilant and adamant to ensure that the committees are diversified [and] are made up of folks that are from diverse backgrounds.”

One program Nevarez said he wants to support further is counseling services and advocates for more funding for the program.

“How can we balance this, do a better job of balancing the support we’re giving to the students, not only academically but also from the social, emotional, psychological aspect of it with anxiety going up, depression going up?” Nevarez said. “Because of that pandemic, then that in itself should tell us as a university that we need to increase the support.”