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Sonoma State president placed on leave after announcing deal with pro-Palestinian protesters

Sonoma State president put on leave for agreement made with campus protesters
Sonoma State president put on leave for agreement made with campus protesters 00:51

Sonoma State University President Mike Lee was placed on leave Wednesday following an email where he announced he and campus protesters had reached an agreement on divestment from Israel.

The email, posted by the student group, shows the other key agreement points.

  • Establishing an Advisory Council of Students for Justice in Palestine
  • Disclosure of investments and divestment, seeking ethical alternatives
  • Academic boycott of academic and research institutions that are sponsored by, or represent, the Israeli state
  • Recognize Palestinian identity and introduce historic curriculum
  • Calling for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza

There was immediate backlash against the email and Lee's decision. CSU Chancellor Mildred Garcia announced Lee was placed on administrate leave on Wednesday.

"For now, because of this insubordination and consequences it has brought upon the system, President Lee has been placed on administrative leave," Garcia said.

Garcia said Lee's message was sent without approval, and in an updated message to the campus, Lee said he was alone in his decision to send the email.

"I want to be clear: The message was drafted and sent without the approval of, or consultation with, the Chancellor or other system leaders. The points outlined in the message were mine alone, and do not represent the views of my colleagues or the CSU," Lee said on Wednesday.

However, he did reaffirm some of his original statements.

"In my message, I stated: "We understand that many people feel anxious and fearful, particularly when standing for what they believe. We ask that everyone do their part to support one another, to ensure that Sonoma State is a safe and inclusive place for all." I stand by that statement. I realize now that my message has caused more fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. This was not my intent," Lee said.

The California Legislative Jewish Caucus on Wednesday said it supported the suspension. A statement attributed to the group's co-chairs Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino) and Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said Lee's endorsement of an academic boycott was "totally unacceptable and evidence that former President Lee is unfit to lead one of our great state institutions."

Chancellor Garcia announced that Lee was retiring from his position on Thursday.

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