Sonoma State faculty approve resolution of no confidence in President Sakaki’s leadership

Sonoma State University faculty members have approved a resolution of no confidence in the leadership of President Judy Sakaki, who faces ongoing criticism of her oversight of campus budget and enrollment woes, as well as her handling of sexual harassment claiming against her husband, lobbyist Patrick McCallum .

Of 278 faculty votes cast, 173 voted in favor of the no confidence resolution, while 105 voted against, a margin of 62% of voters in favor and 38% opposed.

Only 44% of the 629 eligible voters cast ballots in the referendum

The 800-word resolution excoriated Sakaki for, among other things, her handling of the claims against her husband, and her stewardship of the 7,200-student Rohnert Park campus in general.

“President Sakaki’s lack of active leadership at the university has led to a period of declining enrollments, budget crises, and a precipitous drop in the morale of students, staff, and faculty,” the resolution stated.

The vote against Sakaki, 69, comes amid a tumultuous three weeks after The Press Democrat first reported on April 13 that the California State University system paid a $600,000 settlement in January to a former SSU provost, Lisa Vollendorf, to resolve a dispute related to sexual harassment complaints against McCallum.

Sakaki, who denies any retaliation took place, has since announced her separation from McCallum and disavowed private and public statements, he’s made defending himself and addressing media reports.

McCallum has apologized for behavior that may have made people feel uncomfortable, but he denied the behavior was sexual in nature.

Voting on the resolution was conducted by the university’s Academic Senate, the faculty governance body. Voting began Friday and ended 5 pm Monday.

The day voting began last week, Sakaki’s supporters, including some Asian American faculty and administrators, called on voting faculty members to acknowledge the possibility that some of criticism against president could be laced with race and gender bias. Sakaki, who has led SSU since 2016, is the nation’s first Japanese American female president of a four-year university.

But those who support the no-confidence vote say Sakaki’s missteps as an administrator amount to a failed record that speaks for itself. Critics point to a $15.5-to-$17 million deficit and a dramatic decline in fall enrollment of 25%, one of the highest in the 23-campus CSU system.

While they can make for a strong symbolic statement, no-confidence votes are not binding.

Sakaki’s predecessor, Ruben Armiñana — whose relations with faculty were notoriously combative — was the subject of a similar referendum in 2007. A full 73% of participating faculty members expressed no confidence in him, a result “he just ignored,” recalled Laura Watt, a former Sonoma State environmental history professor and faculty chair.

Holmstrom-Keyes said 621 faculty are eligible to vote on the no-confidence resolution, including 242 tenured or tenure-track faculty; 294 lecturers or adjunct faculty teaching 7.5 units or more; and 85 student services professionals who are considered faculty according to the Academic Senate.

The controversy at Sonoma State comes as the California State University network seeks to address a wider scandal handling about systemic flaws in its of sexual harassment cases.

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