An alumna of Sacramento State's Senate Fellows Program says there's a culture of silence around sexual harassment at the state Capitol.
The reaction follows the university's decision Wednesday to place the program's director on indefinite leave amidst claims he failed to report a complaint by a female fellow against a Senator.
Every year college graduates compete for a spot in Sacramento State's Capital Fellows Program. If they get in, Fellows are placed in the Senate or Assembly or the Judicial or Executive branch for 11 months.
Tam Ma was a Senate Fellow in 2002-2003 and got a job interview with a legislator soon after. She later ran into him at a social gathering where Ma says he treated her inappropriately.
"I did not report it at the time for all the reasons we've heard why women are reluctant to report harassment whether they work in the Capitol or elsewhere because it can end your career," Ma said. "And my career was just starting at the time."
Ma, now Policy Director for Health Access California, says it's frustrating that 15 years later a fellow experienced untoward behavior from her boss, reported it to multiple people and the system, which includes Sacramento State, failed to protect her.
Dozens of Capital Fellows alumni, including Ma, circulated a letter earlier this week calling on Sacramento State to investigate and possibly terminate David Pacheco, who leads the Senate Fellows Program.
Capital Public Radio reached out to Sacramento State today Thursday and they confirmed the director of the Senate Fellows Program had been placed on indefinite leave and offered no further comment.
Editor’s Note: The Capital Fellows program is run by Sacramento State, which holds the license to Capital Public Radio.