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After making BDS deal with anti-Zionist protesters, university president in California placed on leave

Deal was the first ever academic boycott of Israel by an American university

Pro-Palestinian protest at Sonoma State University, April 29, 2024 (Photo: Screenshot)

On Tuesday, Sonoma State University (SSU) President Mike Lee sent an email to the student body affirming that he had made an agreement with the local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

The next day, President Lee announced he was put on leave.

The original statement released by Lee was celebrated by SSU’s SJP chapter, as its four original demands, which were announced on April 27, had apparently been met in less than three weeks.

Firstly, Lee promised that “the Advisory Council of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) will be established as a mechanism to ensure SSU administration accountability for all agreements.”

It also said that, with the help of the SJP advisory council, it would review its investments and “determine a course of action leading to divestment strategies.”

Lee additionally promised that “SSU 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.”

Besides the boycott and divestment commitments, Lee said SSU had pledged to “build out the curriculum and programming for Palestine Studies” within existing Ethnic Studies programs by 2024 and to develop a “future Palestine Studies program.”

Less than a day after the deal was made public, Lee put out another statement, saying he had been placed on leave by California State University (CSU) system Chancellor Mildred García.

“In my attempt to find agreement with one group of students, I marginalized other members of our student population and community,” Lee wrote. “I realize the harm that this has caused, and I take full ownership of it. I deeply regret the unintended consequences of my actions.”

He stressed his goal was to “create a safe and inclusive campus for all.”

While acknowledging that his “message has caused more fear, anxiety, and uncertainty,” Lee insisted it “was not [his] intent,” and did not apologize for his statement.

Lee insisted, however, that the original statement “was drafted 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,” he wrote.

As The Times of Israel reported, the deal made by Lee “appeared to make the school the first American university to agree to an academic boycott of Israel.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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