In August 2020, Xitllali Loya marched with nearly 100 protesters, organizing it alongside the Fresno State chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), demanding justice for sexual assault victims.
Loya was also protesting her own Title IX case in 2019 that led to a suspension against the defendants involved. The Collegian reported on the protest and Loya said back in 2020 that former university president Joseph Castro was “not a good president.”
According to the Collegian article, the Fresno State NAACP was also dealing with two other Fresno State students whose reports to the Fresno State Title IX office had it said had “gone unchecked.”
Nearly one-and-a-half years later, CSU Chancellor Castro is facing criticism after a USA Today article detailed six years of mishandling sexual harassment complaints during his time at Fresno State. The complaints against former employee Frank Lamas were dismissed by Castro and led to no disciplinary actions. The news provoked outrage with faculty, staff and students speaking out against Castro.
On Saturday, Feb. 5, Loya organized an on-campus protest on the corners of North Cedar and Shaw avenues, demanding Castro’s resignation and advocating more university support for sexual assault victims.
“The whole Lama situation really angered me. So I was like, we need to do something about it,” Loya said.
“Castro was involved in my cases as well. And I just felt like my case was also thrown under the rug… he’s also the one that should be held responsible for most of these sexual assaults going on on-campus.”
Loya also said she found out about Lamas and Castro when an employee who said she was assaulted told her around a year ago and said she is now glad that their stories are finally released “because that’s what they deserved, and they deserve justice.”
Fresno State students and community members stood in solidarity with Loya, protesting alongside her.
The protest was set up around 10 a.m. with people lined up in all four corners of the intersections with various signs saying: “Protest students. Not Abusers,” “Honk for Accountability” and “CSUF Rapes.”
The scene of the protest mirrored the protests in 2020, as some people from the previous protest returned in 2022 to support Loya.
One of them was D’Aungillique Jackson, who protested with Loya in 2020 as the former Fresno State NAACP president. Jackson returned to offer support again as the Associated Students Inc. (ASI) president.
Jackson said that ASI is in full support of the protest, providing water, a table and materials for posters.
She was joined by ASI’s chief of staff, Brittany Carpenter, a business marketing major graduating this semester, and ASI Senator Alison Garibay, a social work major.
“[ASI] really just wanted to show up and let our campus community know that, as the voice of the students, we stand with survivors,” Jackson said. “And we want to make sure that justice is delivered to those who have been victims of serious crimes.”
Jackson added that Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval and his administration were “totally understanding” of the student government’s stance on the protest.
Jiménez-Sandoval held conversations with many of the staff who worked with Lamas, according to Jackson, saying “they feel hurt” and that they want change. Jackson said more funding and resources need to be made for the Title IX offices and into Fresno State’s survivor advocacy program.
The same push needs to be made to the human resource and student conduct offices, the ASI president said.
Jackson also announced a committee was formed to hire a new vice president of student affairs and engagement, Lamas’ former job, with both her and Garibay being serving members. The interim position is currently being filled by Carolyn Coon, but they are looking for someone to “fight for student voices.”
ASI members also shared their reactions to the news regarding Castro’s handling of sexual harassment complaints.
Carpenter said she was aware of Loya’s case since the beginning, so finding out the news about Castro made her “disappointed.” She then criticized the former university president for not doing his job at Fresno State.
“When you’re going to be president of the CSU, it’s your job to be paying attention to all of the students, especially those people that are in situations where they are being harmed or hurt, or their voices are not being heard,” Carpenter said.
Garibay said she felt Castro was not taking accountability for his actions. She said showing support for the students is important as a student representative, and she said that she has had friends go through sexual harassment and sexual assault.
The protest gave other Fresno State students the opportunity to share their stories as well.
“I personally don’t have experience with… sexual abuse or, you know, rape in that instance, but I have friends that have had those encounters. My boyfriends for example,” Salvador Mendoza, a senior and a pre-psychology major, said. “They were drunk and almost assaulted. So it’s a personal topic for me.”
Mendoza is a second-year transfer from Fresno City College and Canyon University in Phoenix and he came to the protest not knowing anyone. Like many protesters who came who didn’t know Loya personally, Mendoza said he saw it through social media.
Loya posted a poster on her personal Twitter and Instagram accounts, and it led to multiple people sharing it throughout the campus community. Mendoza said that he went to the protest despite going alone because he “miss[ed] being part of just volunteering in the community,” due to the pandemic.
“Especially with COVID-19 right now, there’s like a lot of concerns about coming out here… But there’s a lot of support going on behind the scenes, and I think that it’s really exciting to see everyone show up,” Garibay said.
Although Loya said she is happy to see Fresno State students show their support and protest, she emphasized that the university now needs to do its part in helping sexual assault victims.
“I think the university needs to take all these allegations way more seriously because all they do is encourage it by not doing anything, and, you know, [I’m] pretty sure there’s a lot of abusers walking on campus,” Loya said.
“Do the investigations. Educate the Fresno State community about Title IX because that’s their right.”