The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    President Mike Lee retires amid agreeing to pro-Palestinian protestors’ demands

    Dr. Nathan Evans has been appointed acting president after CSU Chancellor Mildred Garcia condemned Mike Lee’s approval of Students for Justice in Palestine’s demands.
    Kate Williams

    On Thursday May 16, two days before commencement, Dr. Nathan Evans released a statement to the Sonoma State community announcing that Dr. Mike Lee would be stepping down as president and retiring “effective immediately.” Evans, now the appointed acting president, will confer graduates at commencement. 

    This comes two days after Dr. Lee released a statement detailing an agreement he reached with SSU Students for Justice in Palestine. Parts of the agreement included establishing an Advisory Council of Students for Justice in Palestine, introducing a historic curriculum around Palestinian studies and a statement for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. | Courtesy

    The following day, on Wednesday May 15, Dr. Lee addressed concerns over his choice of words in a campus- wide message. “I stand by that statement. I realize now that my message has caused more fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. This was not my intent,” Lee stated. 

    California State University Chancellor Mildred Garcia issued a statement regarding his actions, “For now, because of this insubordination and consequences it has brought upon the system, President Lee has been placed on administrative l​eave.” Stating insubordination insinuates Lee acted alone and his approval and negotiation of demands was not representative of the CSU system.

    According to The Washington Post, multiple college campuses have begun negotiations with student protestors and officials. Northwestern, Brown, and John Hopkins universities were some of the campuses that successfully reached agreements.  

    Donald Lincoln, a second-year film major at SSU, recalled feeling “shocked” when he first read the email. “I’m fully against the [Chancellor’s] decision because I think Mike Lee didn’t do anything wrong and did the right thing in giving the students advocacy,” Lincoln said. 

    Lincoln added that the relationship between students and administrators would worsen because “they are already cutting classes, laying off staff and faculty, and the tuition increase.” 

    Fourth-year business students Mark Oshiro and Phoebe Moser expressed “shock and confusion” when they first received the email. Moser said Dr. Lee should have been given “another chance” before “immediately dismissing him.” 

    “It doesn’t really affect me because I’m graduating, but it’s still crazy,” Oshiro said. “It’s really weird because my sophomore year there was a different president. Then for my junior and senior year we had Mike Lee as president and now we have a different one again.” 

    Megan Bressel, a third-year political science student, said that Dr. Lee was a “really good” president after the sudden departure of former SSU president Judy Sakaki. However, she said that it was “understandable that the chancellor took the route.” 

    “Groups were affected by him agreeing to all four points. He took that initiation without the proper leadership, he went through the protocols. He overstepped his boundaries,” Bressel said. “Sonoma State is a small school. We have small communities. With mass emails like that, [it affects] students a little more directly. All of those need to be taken into consideration.” 

    Organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace Sonoma County and SSU Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) each posted a statement on Instagram supporting Dr. Lee. “As Sonoma County Jews, we applaud Mike Lee for his efforts in trying to create a campus culture at SSU that is more closely aligned with its stated ethics, and for listening carefully to the concerns of his students. We condemn Chancellor Garcia for taking punitive action because of this,” the Jewish Voice for Peace Sonoma County wrote. 

    Student members of the SSU SJP wrote a four-page statement condemning CSU Chancellor Mildred Garcia. “We condemn the decisions that have been set forward and have established a narrative that encourages university administrators to maintain silence and supposed neutrality and have reprimanded President Ming Tung (Mike) Lee.”

     On Sonoma State’s KSUN radio, Students for Justice in Palestine members expressed their reaction to the mass media coverage the issue received. They said seeing outlets like The Guardian, Al Jazeera, LA Times and the rest of the publications covering this issue sets a precedent because they haven’t seen coverage of Sonoma County this wide-ranging besides wildfire coverage.  

    “The movement is bigger, it’s larger than the lawn, it’s bigger than the universities. It just speaks to how much power the students have. We really do have the power here, especially with support from faculty and the system as a whole. [We have] our community supporting us. It’s true solidarity,” Madyline Jaramillo, a third-year student, said.  Jaramillo is a student activist and one of the organizers of the SSU SJP movement.

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    About the Contributors
    Ally Valiente
    Ally Valiente, News Editor
    Ally Valiente is in her 4th year at Sonoma State majoring in communication and media studies and English.
    Olivia Keeler
    Olivia Keeler, Editor-in-Chief
    Olivia Keeler is a fourth-year communications and media studies major at Sonoma State University.
    Kate Williams
    Kate Williams, Staff Writer
    Kate Williams is a third year communication studies major at Sonoma State.
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