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

    Misuse of fees sparks faculty and student protests

    After learning that their student fees were used to pay $250,000 of the $600,000 retaliation settlement to former provost Lisa Vollendorf, who relayed sexual harassment complaints about President Judy Sakaki’s husband, the campus community flew into action last week with angry campus protests. 

    Sonoma State University sent out an email to the campus community on April, 25 announcing that $250,000 of SSU funds would be used to pay the insurance deductible for former provost Lisa Vollendorf’s $600,000 retaliation settlement.

    “Sonoma State University’s contribution (insurance premiums) to CSURMA and its deductibles are, in fact, funded through revenue sources that include student tuition and fees, and enterprise activities such as parking, student housing fees, professional and continuing education, and retail functions,” read the email. 

    Many students are angry that their tuition money is helping pay for the settlement. All over campus, students and staff alike are protesting. Chalk and signs written in Seawolf Plaza read, “enough with the cover-ups… Judy Sakaki out with you,” and, “our money is not hush-money.” 

    Last week campus members gathered in the Seawolf plaza and spoke their minds on the matter. The event was organized by M.E.Ch.A. and B.S.U. with the intent to give SSU members a platform to express their opinions and feelings.

    Third-year Biochemistry student, Trinity-Paris Foster was one of the students in attendance who delivered a speech. 

    Foster expressed her feelings on the recent news, “I’m not going to sit here and feel numb, not wanting to be here because of sexual harassment, discrimination, the process of it being handled, and being pushed to the side like you have an agenda. We are put on a schedule for a year-long process of this pain. Enough is enough SSU.”

    Foster continued, “What are you doing to hold yourself accountable? Taking our money? No, I want all of that back. Every student deserves to get whatever they took out back Because we had nothing to do with the case. As a student body, it shouldn’t impact us this way. It shouldn’t have to impact us this way, we deserve so much more.”

    Many students gathered in the Plaza to show support for their fellow students and listen to what others had to say. 

    Anisya Lustig, a Political Science and GEP SSU student attended Foster’s speech. Prior to the event, she said, “I am pissed because I don’t like the fact that our own money is being used to pay for a settlement that first of all we had nothing to do with but also something that impacts our own faculty and us.”

    Lustig continued, “I think that our entire Title IX system, personally, is BS. It doesn’t really help survivors, it doesn’t help faculty that have faced instances of sexual harassment, and so the fact that the school is trying to cover it up is just a diss to everyone who has survived something in this realm and a diss to anyone that will experience something like this because it does happen on college campuses way more than it should.” 

    Students getting ready to graduate have varied opinions about Sakaki’s attendance at the 2022 Commencement ceremony. 

    Graduating psychology major, Angelica Serrano, said, “I will not be participating in shaking President Judy Sakaki’s hand at commencement. Her lack of responsibility and willingness to fight for justice does not represent Sonoma State.” As for Serrano’s opinion on the settlement scandal, she says, “It is unfortunate that she demonstrates how it is acceptable to retaliate against victims, and then to slide the injustice ‘under the rug’ by paying a settlement.” 

    Others are more forgiving; Emily Shannon, an English and French double major said about Sakaki, “She is still our University’s president, after all, I think she should attend. There are most certainly recent decisions she has made where she should not have signed and agreed but… I sympathize with her for being met with all this backlash when she was not the one who committed the heinous act.” 

    Another anonymous alumnus who graduated with a degree in political science looked back on his experiences with Sakaki as University President. “I remember when she kept the campus open and classes in session during the fall 2018 fires. SSU was the only school open in all of Sonoma County at this time. The fact that she’s still President of SSU is astonishing.”

    Other alumni offered a different perspective on the issue and wanted to talk about Lisa Vollendorf, the former provost at Sonoma State who filed reports against Sakaki’s husband. 

    The Press Democrat explains Vollendorf’s, “claim stated Sakaki retaliated against her in response to reports Vollendorf made of sexual harassment complaints by SSU female employees against Patrick McCallum, Sakaki’s husband.” Emily Hinton, a former Associated Students President and thereafter a CSU trustee, who worked very closely with Vollendorf shared, “ I’m not saying she’s lying… but Lisa was one of the worst University Administers I have ever experienced and was absolutely horrible to students in AS for the time she spent at SSU. She was… motivated by her own agenda to advance her career.” Vollendorf will be receiving $500,000 personally, and the other $100,000 is to cover her attorney costs. 

    Through all the chaos surrounding Sonoma State’s University President, Judy Sakaki, students are trying to find some sense of normalcy, as they have to continue going to classes and preparing for finals.

    STAR// Khanh Dao

    Students and faculty march together on Thurs., April 28, demanding overhaul of SSU’s Title IX policies and prioritizing students and academics.

    Donate to Sonoma State Star

    Your donation will support the student journalists of Sonoma State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to Sonoma State Star