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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

    Senate approves putting Sakaki ‘no confidence’ vote to faculty this week

    In the most recent Sonoma State University Academic Senate meeting on Thursday, April 28, faculty, staff, and students shared their thoughts on the President Sakaki Scandal and the vote of no confidence referendum. The Senate did not vote no confidence in Thursday’s meeting, and the purpose of the senate proposal was to approve allowing the faculty to vote at all.

    Laurel Holstrom-Keyes, SSU’s Academic Senate Analyst, explained how the referendum process will proceed in a Friday morning email to all eligible voters. “Pro and con comments will be posted on the Senate website. The comment period will close on May 5th. We will only accept comments from faculty, staff, students, and administrators at SSU,” Holstrom-Keyes stated. 

    Lauren Morimoto, Chair of the Faculty, is actively working to schedule another forum to give people the space to discuss and hear from others prior to the vote opening on May 6. The current schedule of the vote may need to be adjusted if the forum isn’t able to occur prior to that vote opening to ensure room for open conversation is made. 

    Lack of transparency has been a continued issue around this situation creating a culture of fear of retaliation on campus. 

    In the Senate meeting, professors Talena Sanders and Florence Bouvet, and Ben Smith introduced their reasons for drafting the proposed referendum such as high faculty turnover rate, poor financial decisions made by the President, and a lack of transparency. 

    Voters were given the opportunity to voice their opinions as to whether or not faculty should be allowed to vote on the referendum; however, conversation quickly devolved into debates surrounding President Sakaki’s merits. 

    Some faculty members started defending the racism and sexism Sakaki has endured over the course of her career. 

    Professor of Art History/African and Diasporic Studies Janet Hess said, “I would just ask us to be mindful of the racism and sexism that are intersectional when we critique the president and the legal restrictions she faces. Let’s just be mindful of her humanity and not succumb to the brutalism that we’re seeking to criticize here.” 

    Associate Professor of Cognitive & Developmental Science Wendy Ostroff spoke to the issues with the Title IX process as well as the sensationalized news reporting surrounding this case. Ostroff said, “I’m also troubled by, in the case of President Sakaki as well as our former Chancellor, Chancellor Castro, that the person who’s going to take the fall is a person of color and a fellow first-generation college student who’s been put in an impossible situation by a system of hegemony and hierarchy and forced to sign documents and make deals by corrupt lawyers and corrupt power structures. So taking these people out does not help the problem, it does not change the system, in fact the office it is often the case.”

    West Below, a 21-year-old Computer Science major and Chapter President of Young Americans for Liberty for Sonoma County wrote in the Zoom chat, “No matter what race or sex you are, using student tuition money for personal legal settlements is equally abhorrent. If people are being defended solely because of their skin color that is a real problem.” 

    At the end of the zoom meeting, several members of the AS brought up their desire to share a pre-recorded video statement made by Sakaki. In the lengthy video, Sakaki began by highlighting her family history as Japanese indentured servants, picture brides, and her life as a Buddhist; pointing to these as reasons she would never retaliate. 

    Sakaki made it clear she finds the opinion that she’s looked the other way with harassment offensive because she’s also a victim of harassment. 

    Sakaki went on to cover some of her accomplishments at SSU before discussing the allegations. “Let me turn to the issue of allegations of potential harassment or other misconduct. I’ll restate how repugnant I find this behavior because I have experienced it myself, but let me be as clear as I can be, I wasn’t informed about any allegations or any investigations till about one year after the allegations and investigation was conducted by the Chancellor’s Office,” Sakaki said. 

    Sakaki reinstated the investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing and she “did not put her finger on the proverbial scale”. 

    SSU is going to implement a President’s Advisory Committee as well as a Restorative Justice Program to assist in working through the Title IX issues. 

    “I have chosen to speak from the heart today because I find so much of the current narrative to be so wrong and in many cases simply untrue. I do not tolerate harassment or discrimination and reject the suggestion that I, unlike my male counterparts, should have my career on the line because of alleged actions of my spouse,” Sakaki said. 

    A victim of McCallum’s sexual harassment anonymously wrote to the STAR and said, “None of that background mattered to her White male husband who felt entitled to touch my face and hair in public without my permission.”

    As a feminine presenting non-binary person who uses they/them/she/her pronouns, SSU Professor Sanders has experienced sexual harassment throughout every step of their own professional career. They feel disappointed in the president’s lack of accountability for creating a culture of fear of retaliation on our campus in service of shielding a man who predated on her own colleagues. 

    “I don’t doubt that President Sakaki has faced an extraordinary uphill battle as a woman of color throughout her professional life to the position of power she now holds. However, this new strategy to insinuate that legitimate critical inquiry of her professional behavior as our leader is equivalent with racism is a cynical use of contemporary dialogue around race. Utilizing this dialogue in this way quickly chills protest and criticism, but I believe our students and colleagues will see the truth behind the strategy,” Sanders said.

    Earlier on Thursday, Sonoma State students, faculty, and staff rallied to demand officials restore SSU by revising Title IX and placing students and academics first from noon to 12:45 p.m. on the grass field next to Seawolf Plaza.

    Students, staff and local press gathered to listen to three brief speeches delivered by CFA (California Faculty Association) members Ellen Carleton, from the Kinesiology department Dr. Lynne Morrow from the music department, and ChristineKelley from theater, arts and dance which highlighted the group’s goals of overhauling the Title IX Office, as well as their commitment to shared governance and putting students and academics first. 

    On Tuesday, April 26 in the Seawolf Plaza SSU student, Trinity-Paris Foster argued the tuition money used in the McCallum-Sakaki settlement be returned to students, that Title IX be revised, and Judy Sakaki resign. 

    Foster’s words about transparency and intersectionality brought some audience members to tears. “Judy Sakaki, I’m sorry, you gotta go. This is not seawolf pride, this is not what a seawolf does,” Foster said.  

    She concluded her speech by stating, “Enough is enough. Treat me like I’m a human, talk to me to my face. No more zoom links, no more interviews, speak to me like I am a human. Treat me like I am supposed to be treated. I am a student here at SSU. Treat me the way I’m supposed to be treated and I’ll treat you the same way.” 

    Communication and media studies third-year student Emma Molloy started a petition to hold Sakaki accountable. “I’m really disappointed in the President, especially as a woman, and feel that students should feel safe, protected by and confident in their university leader—as should faculty and other university employees,” Molloy said. 

    Within the first few hours of publishing her petition, she had already received hundreds of signatures. Many people left comments alongside their signatures like, “take out the trash,” or explained that the situation had brought up suppressed feelings about unwanted attention from other faculty on campus. 

    Molloy plans to take the list of signatures to the CSU Board of Trustees in an effort to place pressure on the system to let Sakaki go. “She should just resign and cut her losses,” Molloy said. 

    The petition to hold Sakaki accountable currently has 1050 signatures as of Sunday night.

    STAR// Maych Rowell

    Student stood outside Lobos with signs demanding President Judy Sakaki and her husband, Patrick McCallum, be held accountable.

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