Sonoma State president retires after agreeing to demands from protesters

Instead of going on administrative leave, Mike Lee has decided to end his career in education altogether and retire.

Just one day after being placed on administrative leave for capitulating to demands from pro-Palestinian protesters, Sonoma State University President Mike Lee is retiring. 

Lee had been placed on leave for agreeing to meet the demands of the protesters without permission from the higher ups in the California State University system. 


The backstory: After camping out on campus for three weeks, protesters met with Lee and other senior administrators at Sonoma State and agreed to remove their encampment if the university met their demands. 

  • Lee sent out a statement on Wednesday to the campus community saying that he personally calls for a cease-fire in Gaza and that Sonoma State will form an advisory council to determine strategies to divest from Israel. Lee also agreed to build out curriculum and programming for Palestine Studies. 
  • But the CSU harshly reprimanded Lee on Wednesday, with Chancellor Mildred Garcia saying Lee’s message was sent without the appropriate approvals and that his insubordination has brought consequences on the system. 

The big picture: Come Thursday, Lee was out of the picture entirely, choosing to not wait out the administrative leave in hopes of keeping his job. 

  • Instead Lee opted for the pension system, telling Garcia on Thursday that he has decided to retire. 

What they’re saying: “I thank President Lee for his years of service to the California State University – starting at California State University, Sacramento – and to higher education overall,” Garcia said in a statement. “I wish him and his family well.” 

What we’re watching: Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs and Chief Academic Officer Nathan Evans was named acting president of Sonoma State when Lee was placed on administrative leave. 

  • Garcia said she will continue to work with Evans during this transitional period and that more information will be forthcoming. 
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