Friday 17 May 2024

University President Placed On Leave After Agreeing To Anti-Israel Protest Demands, Including ‘Academic Boycott’ Of Israel

 The president of Sonoma State University (SSU) in California has been placed on leave after sending an email on Tuesday announcing an agreement with anti-Israel protesters.

SSU President Ming-Tung “Mike” Lee announced that the agreement with students who had set up camp on the school’s Person Lawn to protest Israel would include an “academic boycott” of Israel, The Press Democrat reported. The boycott would mean that SSU would not pursue or engage with any study abroad programs with Israeli state institutions, KCRA reported.

This was part of four “points of agreement” Lee agreed to with the protesters to get them to remove their camp.

Also part of the agreement was a promise to disclose university vendor contracts and seek “divestment strategies,” the outlet reported. Lee also said the university would create an advisory council of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Last week, survivors of the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel sued SJP and other anti-Israel groups, claiming the group had links to the terrorist organization Hamas, the Intercept reported.

On Wednesday, one day after Lee sent his email, California State University Chancellor Mildred Garcia issued a statement denouncing the agreement and saying the email had been sent “without the appropriate approvals.”

“The Board’s leadership and I are actively reviewing the matter and will provide additional details in the near future. For now, because of this insubordination and consequences it has brought upon the system, President Lee has been placed on administrative l​eave,” Garcia wrote.

“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,” she added.

Lee sent another email late Wednesday announcing his leave and acknowledging the agreement was a mistake.


“My goal when meeting with students at the encampment was to explore opportunities to make meaningful change, identify common ground and create a safe and inclusive campus for all. I now realize that many of the statements I made in my campus-wide message did just the opposite,” he said, according to the Press Democrat. “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.”

Stephen Bittner, chair of SSU’s history department and director of its Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide,​ told the Press Democrat that he was “completely blindsided” by the provisions in the agreement Lee made with the protesters.

“The academic boycott of Israel is atrocious and morally reprehensible, in my view,” he told the outlet before Lee was placed on leave. “It is contrary to the values of scholarly freedom, and free exchange, that are supposed to be at the center of any university.”

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