California university president put on leave after announcing agreement with pro-Palestinian group

May 16, 2024, 10:36 AM

ROHNERT PARK, Calif. (AP) — The chancellor of the California State University system has suspended the president of its Sonoma campus for announcing an agreement with pro-Palestinian activists to pursue an academic boycott of Israeli institutions as well as “divestment strategies.”

The message by Sonoma State University President Ming-Tung “Mike” Lee was issued “without the appropriate approvals,” said Mildred García, chancellor of the 23-campus CSU system, in a statement Wednesday.

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

Lee quickly issued an apology for the agreement he announced Tuesday after meetings with students who set up a campus encampment, one of many that have appeared at colleges to protest Israel’s actions in the war with Hamas and to press schools to cut ties with Israel and businesses that support it.

“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 campuswide message did just the opposite,” Lee wrote.

“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,” Lee said.

In his original message, Lee endorsed student activism, protest and dissent.

“None of us should be on the sidelines when human beings are subject to mass killing and destruction,” Lee had said Tuesday in announcing that an Advisory Council of Students for Justice in Palestine was being established at Sonoma State.

Lee said a review of all university foundation investments and vendor contracts was being launched.

“After the review, the Advisory Council of SJP and SSU administrators will meet with proper officials to determine a course of action leading to divestment strategies that include seeking ethical alternatives,” Lee said.

Lee said Sonoma State has no faculty or student exchange agreements in Israel and would not in the future.

Sonoma State “will not 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,” he said.

Lee added that engagement with “individual Israeli scholars acting in a personal capacity” would be welcome.

United States News

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California university president put on leave after announcing agreement with pro-Palestinian group