CSU General Counsel Retires as System Continues to Undergo Changes

ChristineHelwickThe California State University (CSU) continues to undergo major changes as Christine Helwick, the system’s general counsel, announced her retirement yesterday.

Her 18-year tenure at the CSU—serving initially as interim General Counsel of the CSU and then moving to a permanent position in 1996—was followed by a role in the University of California’s General Counsel Office.

Her leaving not only follows the retirement of current Chancellor Charles Reed, but follows some of the most trying times at the CSU. Though she has reduced the number of litigated cases by 70 percent, her oversight has brought forth both controversial and devastating blows to the already-weak system.

In 2010, jurors awarded former Fresno State basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein a staggering $19.1 million after discovering the coach was not only a victim of gender discrimination and sexual harassment, but also—and more disturbingly—fired by the CSU for speaking of it. It was the third case involving women in athletics at Fresno State.

Last year, she spoke controversially of a situation in which the CSU was charged with illegally keeping an open Board vote meeting involving student fee hikes behind closed doors. “Nobody was purposely excluded from that session. It might have been better if it was done differently,” she said to the Post. “Does that make it illegal? I don’t think so.”

This was the not University’s first foray into questionable behavior regarding fee hikes. A lawsuit filed on behalf of all CSU students, both undergrad and graduate, have claimed the CSU Board of Trustees violated contractual laws by charging them twice for tuition without providing proper time for the students to secure funds for said fee hike. Echoing a similar case against the UC system, Kashmiri v. Regents of the University of California which favored the students, it is expected that the courts will reach a similar decision.

Reed was overtly optimistic about Helwick’s role as the CSU continues to alter itself via drastic administrative changes.

“Chris has a national reputation as an extremely well respected legal counsel in higher education,” said Reed in a press release. “She has provided steady, thoughtful and knowledgeable legal guidance to the CSU for the past 18 years, and her service to the institution is much appreciated.”

A nationwide search for Helwick’s replacement will commence immediately while she continues to help incoming Chancellor Timothy White.


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