California University Puts President On Leave After Caving To Anti-Israel Protesters’ Demands

REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt

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Mary Lou Masters Contributor
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California State University (CSU) put Sonoma State University (SSU) President Mike Lee on leave after he sent a campus memo signaling an agreement with pro-Palestinian protesters that did not receive the “appropriate approvals,” according to a Wednesday CSU press release.

Lee issued an “encampment update” Tuesday evening, establishing an “Advisory Council of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)” and detailing his intention for the university to boycott and divest from Israel. CSU Chancellor Mildred García subsequently announced Lee was placed on “administrative leave” due to his “insubordination and consequences it has brought upon the system.” (RELATED: Police Battle Anti-Israel Protesters, Deploy Flashbangs To Clear Out UCLA Encampment)

​”Our role as educators is to support and uplift all members of the California State University,” García said in a statement. “I want to acknowledge how deeply concerned I am about the impact the statement has had on the Sonoma State community, and how challenging and painful it will be​ for many of our students and community members to see and read. The heart and mission of the CSU is to create an inclusive and welcoming place for everyone we serve​, not to marginalize one community over another.”​

Lee said there would be a “review of all SSU Foundation investments,” including vendor contracts, “to determine a course of action leading to divestment strategies that include seeking ethical alternatives,” according to the Tuesday memo.

A general view of a pro-Palestinian protest encampment, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at California State University (Cal State) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 11, 2024. (REUTERS/David Swanson)

The president also committed to an “academic boycott” of Israel, pledging not to “pursue or engage in any study abroad programs, faculty exchanges, or other formal collaborations that are sponsored by, or represent, the Israeli state academic and research institutions.”

Lee reacted to his placement on leave in another campus-wide statement on Wednesday, and said he’ll “reflect on the harm this has caused and will be working with the Chancellor’s Office to determine next steps.”

“In my attempt to find agreement with one group of students, I marginalized other members of our student population and community. I realize the harm that this has caused, and I take full ownership of it. I deeply regret the unintended consequences of my actions,” Lee said. “I want to be clear: The message was drafted and sent without the approval of, or consultation with, the Chancellor or other system leaders. The points outlined in the message were mine alone, and do not represent the views of my colleagues or the CSU.”

Pro-Palestinian encampments have popped up on college campuses across the country proposing similar demands to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, including at Columbia University, Yale University, George Washington University and Emerson College.

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