President of Sonoma State University on Indefinite Leave After Deal on Israel Boycott

United States North America Higher Education News by Erudera News May 17, 2024

Sonoma State University President Mike Lee

The President of liberal arts college Sonoma State University, Mike Lee, has been placed on indefinite leave after announcing a deal had been reached with students protesting against Israel’s war in Gaza.

On late Tuesday, the president sent an email to the Sonoma State community saying he agreed to involve students in the university’s decision-making process and boycott Israeli academic institutions, Erudera.com reports.

The campus-wide message has been described as unauthorized and sent without “appropriate approvals.” In a statement issued on May 15, one day after Lee announced the agreement, the broader California state university system officials accused him of insubordination.

“For now, because of this insubordination and the consequences it has brought upon the system, President Lee has been placed on administrative l​eave,” California State Chancellor Mildred García said.

García expressed concerns about the impact that Lee’s statement has had on the university community, adding that CSU’s mission is to provide a welcoming environment for everyone and not to make anyone feel marginalized.

Among the key points of the agreement were a review of contracts to consider divestment options and seek ethical alternatives, the establishment of an Advisory Council of Students for Justice in Palestine, the recognition of Palestinian identity, and a call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

“None of us should be on the sidelines when human beings are subject to mass killing and destruction,” Lee wrote.

He said the university will not engage in any study abroad programs, faculty exchanges, or other partnerships sponsored by Israel.

The decision triggered a backlash from pro-Israel groups. Then on Wednesday, Lee sent another message to the Sonoma State community, apologizing that he had not consulted with other university leaders before releasing the announcement on the deal.

“In my attempt to find agreement with one group of students, I marginalized other members of our student population and community,” Lee said. “I realize the harm that this has caused, and I take full ownership of it. I deeply regret the unintended consequences of my actions.”

The debate comes amid pro-Palestinian protests spread at college campuses in the United States, with students asking their universities to cut academic and financial ties with Israel. It all started on the morning of April 17, when a group of students set up an encampment, demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and divestment from companies linked to Israel’s military.

In solidarity, protests erupted at other campuses nationwide, including Yale, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Michigan, and others. While some universities have agreed to negotiate with students, Columbia said it will not accept divestment demands.

Since October 7, 2023, over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, including 15,000 children and 10,000 women. Over 78,700 other people were injured.

Read Also:

>> Study Finds Nearly All College Protests Against Israel’s War on Gaza Have Been Peaceful

Image source: Sonoma State University website.

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