University President Grovels Before the Antisemites. The Reaction Was Surprising.

Sonoma State University is the smallest school in California’s sprawling state university system, with only 7,700 students.

That fact hasn’t dimmed the controversy over campus protests. In the case of Sonoma State, the controversy has exploded, forcing the president, Ming-Tung “Mike” Lee, to go on leave for announcing an agreement with the pro-Palestinian protesters without “appropriate approvals” of the administration.

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It’s hard to imagine anybody in a position of authority at Sonoma State approving what Lee agreed to.

Lee promised the antisemites that there would be a “review” of its investments and an “academic boycott” that would prevent any exchanges, agreements, or other contracts with any Israeli educational institution. 

In a Wednesday statement, California State University Chancellor Mildred Garcia expressed her shock and dismay at the agreement Lee made with the protesters. 

“On Tuesday evening, Sonoma State University President Mike Lee sent a campuswide message concerning an agreement with campus protesters. That message was sent without the appropriate approvals … because of this insubordination and consequences it has brought upon the system, President Lee has been placed on administrative leave.”

There were “four points of agreement” between the administration and the protesters. One was that the school would disclose all vendor contracts and seek “divestment strategies.”

But it’s the “academic boycott” that has enraged Jewish groups across the country.

The Press Democrat:

Stephen Bittner, chair of the Sonoma State history department and director of its Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide, said he was “completely blindsided” by those provisions and finds them highly problematic.

“The academic boycott of Israel is atrocious and morally reprehensible, in my view,” he told The Press Democrat Wednesday, before Lee was placed on leave. “It is contrary to the values of scholarly freedom, and free exchange, that are supposed to be at the center of any university.

“We do not shun people we disagree with. We interact with them. I am deeply disappointed in President Lee for caving to pressure to participate in a boycott of Israel.”

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Lee sent another email on Wednesday admitting his “mistake.”

“My goal when meeting with students at the encampment was to explore opportunities to make meaningful change, identify common ground and create a safe and inclusive campus for all. I now realize that many of the statements I made in my campus-wide message did just the opposite,” he said.

What’s “meaningful change” when it involves divesting or boycotting Israel? What is “meaningful” about groveling before antisemites?

“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.”

It’s incredible that Lee didn’t realize he was marginalizing Jewish students on campus by boycotting Israeli educational institutions. In his eagerness to cave to the protesters, he neglected the basic rule for administrators in these protests: absolute neutrality. Lee placed his thumb on the scales in favor of the antisemites and will probably pay for his stupidity with his job. 

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