On Monday, divided professors at Sanoma State University voted no confidence in President Judy Sakaki, citing a number of issues including the recent scandal in which her husband Patrick McCallum allegedly sexually harassed college staff.
A total of 173 teachers voted for the vote of no confidence, 105 – against. But only 278 of the 629 eligible voters voted – less than half of the members of the Academic Senate. Voting took place online and took place from Friday to Monday.
The no-confidence motion came after a scandal in which McCallum reportedly sexually harassed campus staff, prompting former Vice Chancellor Lisa Wolendorf to file a complaint. The women, who reportedly witnessed McCallum’s misconduct at a party at his home, told Woldorf that he was “disgusting” and “paramount”, noting that he allegedly touched a woman’s hair and made unwanted and inappropriate comments about her. whole. According to media reports, the University of California system has not conducted a formal investigation into allegations of harassment that were discovered when the CSU paid $ 600,000 in Folendorf after Sakaki reportedly retaliated against her by making defamatory statements and refusing a promised letter of recommendation.
McCallum denied any wrongdoing. Sakaki announced their separation how the claims were spread.
But Sakaki’s inaction regarding her husband’s alleged sexual harassment of staff is hardly the only subject of controversy for teachers. The no-confidence motion also accused the president of demonstrating poor leadership amid declining entrants, a budget crisis on campus, low staff morale and challenging positions in Section IX.
The loss of $ 85,000 of university artwork that hung in Sakaki’s house when it was destroyed by fire in 2017 is another problem that provoked criticism.
Lauren Marimata, chairwoman of the Sanoma State Senate, noted that some of her colleagues had a desire to vote no confidence back in December, but it never gained. But the claims against McCallum – and Sakaki’s inadequate response to them – were a turning point.
“I think it definitely reinforced things, especially based on the comments I’ve heard from people where people have many times been more focused on those two issues [alleged sexual harassment and retaliation] and not on a budget, not on enrollment, ”Marimota said Inside the Supreme Ed.
Quick scan pros and cons the no-confidence vote reveals a long list of issues that go beyond McCallum and touches on broader concerns about Sakaki’s leadership. But scandals involving sexual harassment and revenge are a significant factor in the arguments behind the no-confidence vote, and many believe the incident has undermined their confidence in Sakaki.
“I have lost all confidence that President Sakaki can successfully run our university. This scandal was met with excuses and deviations, rather than concern for the welfare of the victims or recognition of responsibility, “- wrote one of the teachers in a statement, explaining his arguments for a vote of no confidence. “The university is now embroiled in controversy and damage control as President Sakaki refuses to resign; Teachers and staff across campus are spending valuable time on this awkward and ill-addressed problem, instead of dealing with the extremely pressing budget crisis. President Sakaki’s understanding of the role of leadership seems to be very lacking, a situation that is unfortunately long before this scandal. “
Others have suggested that the scandal harms an already vulnerable university by taking time, money and attention to many important issues.
“I believe that the question before us is: do we trust the leadership of this president? Do we believe President Sakaki can get us out of this? Do we believe she can bring us back from the edge? I don’t understand how the answer can be other than “no”. Banalities are not plans. And Sonoma State needs a plan, ”wrote one of the teachers. “Listening sessions will not fix our budget problems … and will not provide stability to offices such as Chapter IX, where there has been significant leaks during President Sakaki’s tenure. Promises do not protect victims of sexual violence and harassment on our campus who have been re-injured by processes that seem more focused on protecting the institution than they are. We need real leadership, and I don’t think we will find that with our current president. “
Defenders of Sakaki claimed that she was unjustly accused, and that there is both racism and sexism, and the Japanese-American president is responsible for her husband’s actions.
“Imagine if Dr. Sakaki was a white man and that her husband (the alleged perpetrator) was a colored woman, how would the press and campus cope with this problem. I just think it’s important for us to look at this, “wrote Carner Werder, a professor of nursing, against the no-confidence vote. “I believe that the white male Dr. Sakaki would not be as damned as the real Dr. Sakaki is now. And I believe that his colored wife (as the alleged perpetrator) would be a scapegoat in this situation. I just want others to consider it. “
Others who oppose the no-confidence vote have suggested that more information is needed to take such a measure, and that Sakaki is just a scapegoat in a broken system.
“I believe this incident is a violation of Section IX, both on our campus and at the CSU level, and that it connects with other issues on our campus (some of which are due to fires and COVID),” – wrote Wendy Ostroff, Professor of Cognitive and Developmental Science. “I am concerned about the ease with which we are disgraced and want to destroy individual scapegoats in a corrupt and broken system. I am also deeply concerned that sensational news reports are seen as true when we are not given all the information; if there was no full investigation. In both cases, before a full and fair investigation could be conducted, colored people and people of the first generation / higher education, President Sakaki as well as our former Chancellor [Joseph] Castro, are going to fall after being put in impossible situations by systems of hegemony and hierarchy (i.e. forced to sign documents and make deals with corrupt lawyers and authorities) ”.
Castro resigned in February amid criticism that he mishandling of sexual harassment and bullying by a subordinate when he was president of the University of California, Fresno.
Sonoma State did not respond to numerous requests for comment, but Larry Kamer, Sakaki’s spokesman, made a statement regarding the vote.
“Although the majority of teachers did not vote in this referendum, Dr. Sakaki is pleased with the support she has received from a significant number of teachers and continues to receive from supporters on and off campus,” Kamer said in an email. “She also remembers the concerns expressed by the majority who voted. In recent days, she shared plans to improve Sonoma’s Title IX programs and maintain them, improve the budget situation and improve the sustainable number of students. The vote is a testament to the fact that there is work to be done to improve the tone of the conversation and the sense of cooperation, and she is committed to this work. “
In addition to the Sonoma community, others weighed a no-confidence vote.
The Asia-Pacific Americans in higher education defended Sakaki in a letter of support.
“As the first Japanese American to be elected to head a major university in the United States, we are proud of Dr. Sakaki’s many accomplishments. We stand in solidarity with Dr. Judy Sakaki. She has worked tirelessly to contribute to higher education and to continue to focus our collective efforts on equality and diversity, equity and inclusion, ”the APAHE letter said, noting Sakaki’s mentorship, awards and commitment to social justice.
Further in the letter Sakaki is referred to as an “experienced professional, role model and role model for many young professionals, giving access to novice leaders to learn from. She is a teacher and trustee for many teachers and administrators of higher education. ”
Local politicians also weighed.
“Teachers have spoken out, and it’s time to begin the healing process,” Democratic Senators Bill Dodd and Mike McGuire, who represent local counties, said in a statement. Los Angeles Times. “President Sakaki must resign for the greater benefit of the university.”
Sakaki did not mention her resignation in the limited public statements she made after the vote. And according to experts, the vote of no confidence does not give the blow that was before.
“Previously, a no-confidence vote for the presidency was largely a kiss of death,” said Terence McTagart, senior consultant and senior researcher at AGB Consulting.
McTaggart suggests that growing disagreements between faculty and administrators seem to have increased the number of no-confidence votes in the top edition, which has also reduced the damage. While he notes that a vote of no confidence will attract the attention of trustees and the California state system, in this case the governing body must determine whether the vote has real implications.
“If it turns out that the council, after investigation and evaluation, believes that there is room for improvement, but that the presidency can be saved, they may well seek some reconciliation, seek change on behalf of the president’s behavior,” McTagart said. . “I know several presidents who continued to work for another 5 to 10 years after the vote, because they set everything up. In other cases, the other extreme is if the council thinks the teachers are right and they should have noticed things sooner, it could lead to the president’s resignation. “
If Sakaki passes the no-confidence vote and continues to serve, she will follow in the footsteps of her predecessor, Ruben Arminiana, who survived his 2007 no-confidence vote. Arminiana, who has been president since 1992, continued to serve until his retirement in 2016.
And memories of the system’s leadership not noticing the vote of no confidence in Arminiana in 2007 are still fresh in Sanoma, where Marimata is wondering if something similar will happen with Sakaki.
“I don’t think this vote of no confidence will inspire proxies to take action unless they have already decided they want to exclude it for their own reasons,” Marimota said. “Honestly, I don’t think they care what we think, and they proved it during a vote of no confidence in Reuben Armignan.”