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UCLA Academic Senate rejects censure and ‘no confidence’ on Chancellor Gene Block

Representatives of the UCLA Academic Senate have voted against censuring and declaring “censorship” of UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, rejecting calls to issue formal disapproval of his leadership amid protests criticism of the university’s response to a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus and violence. a mob attacked him more than two weeks ago.

On a “censorship” resolution, 79 faculty members approved, 103 opposed, five abstained, and seven members were present but did not vote, with 43 percent of representatives voting against UCLA’s top leader .

During the censure, 88 faculty members approved, 88 opposed, three abstained, and 15 were present but did not vote. With the vote split in half for and against censorship, it did not pass because it needed a majority to succeed.

Block declined to comment on the vote.

In a letter to faculty Friday, University Senate President Andrea M. Kasko said it is “clear that we are not united in how we view the major events of the past few weeks and the campus response to these.” Kasko, a professor of bioengineering, said she hopes “we can try to find common ground as colleagues and have the courage to listen with open minds and hearts, even when we are not disagree”.

After the vote, UC President Michael V. Drake said, “We are in an extraordinarily complex and unprecedented time for American universities. I appreciate Chancellor Block’s dedication and commitment to the University during these difficult times. We will continue to provide our chancellors with the support and resources they need to respond to these evolving situations.

The University Senate’s decision, even if the motions passed, would have been a largely symbolic vote with no legal authority over Block’s position.

Both votes focused on whether Block “failed to ensure the safety of our students and seriously mishandled events” related to the pro-Palestinian encampment at the university that began April 25 .

On April 30, a crowd attacked the encampment during the night, despite a late response from the police, leaving many injured. The police then intervened to demolish the encampment, arresting more than 200 demonstrators. The nothe motions of confidence and censure used the same language.

The vote was conducted by a legislative assembly of more than 200 members from all departments at UCLA, elected to represent 3,800 tenured and tenure-track faculty.

The vote marked another dark moment for the leader of the nation’s largest public research university. Block ends his 17-year tenure in controversy after years of praise for guiding the campus through a financial crisis and global pandemic by increasing enrollment, diversity, philanthropy and research funding. Block, a biologist, announced last year that he would leave his position on July 31 to return to research.

“This shows that many professors support Chancellor Block and understand that he adhered to UC policies,” said a source who was not authorized to speak publicly. “People realize that Chancellor Block found himself in an impossible situation.”

The professors’ opinions reflected the divided vote.

Jeffrey Maloy, associate professor of molecular cell and developmental biology, voted no on both motions.

“We support an investigation, but we didn’t feel like there was a sincere effort to gather information and do some soul-searching, find out what the policies are and if they were violated,” Maloy said. “It was like an attempt to find a scapegoat.”

Maloy said he felt the censure resolution was unclear: Was Block’s behavior scrutinized for censorship because the chancellor would not respond to protesters’ demands? Was it because he didn’t call the police quickly enough the night of the attack? Or should he not have called the police at all?

“I may have been persuaded to vote on a specific action related to a specific thing, but it seemed incredibly vague and consistent with professors wanting to claim an ideological victory,” Maloy said.

Michael Chwe, a political science professor and member of the Legislative Assembly who was part of a group leading the no-confidence campaign, said he still considered the votes “an achievement.”

“There were 50 percent of our professors across the university, including the medical school and the dental school, (who) were in favor of censorship,” said Chwe, who helped draft a letter signed by more than 900 university faculty and staff. through the University of California system which called for Block’s resignation. The letter also called for amnesty for students, staff and faculty who participated in the encampment and peaceful protests, disclosure by the university of all its investments and divestment from military weapons production companies.

“We obviously would have liked to have had more support,” Chwe said. “This is the start of many steps people are taking to empower and protect the safety of students on campus.”

Chwe said those efforts included faculty support for a strike by United Auto Workers 4811, a university worker union that includes graduate students, scheduled to begin Monday at UC Santa Cruz.

Renee Tajima, a professor of Asian American studies and member of the Legislature, said the censure and censure vote was a “no-brainer.”

“Who was in charge while our students were being beaten and injured while no one from the university administration did anything to help them?” Tajima said. “Imagine some students were brutally attacked and the next day Block calls this huge police force to arrest them and use rubber bullets against them. … This vote is the least we can do as educators to make a statement about what is right and what is wrong.”

The Senate’s decision removes one issue from a list of growing challenges facing the chancellor in his final six weeks in office.

In a letter Wednesday, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, requested that Block, Drake and Rich Leib, chairman of the board of UC administration, produce all documents, communications and security videos related to alleged anti-Semitic events at UCLA since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7.

The committee set the deadline for May 21, two days before a hearing in Washington, D.C., in which Block and his counterparts from Michigan and Yale will testify on anti-Semitism on college campuses — the next in a series of congressional hearings that included the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, as well as the superintendent of Berkeley Public Schools.

The Block leadership vote is the latest in a series of actions by U.S. university professors over how administrations have handled pro-Palestinian protests.

On May 8, the USC Academic Senate voted to censure President Carol Folt and Provost Andrew Guzman for “widespread dissatisfaction and concern among faculty regarding administrative actions and decisions” related to the cancellation of a pro-Palestinian student’s promotion speech and riot police’s authorization of a campus encampment.

On Thursday, 61% of faculty members at the Columbia University School of Arts and Sciences voted to “censor” President Minouche Shafik, who is criticized for his decision to send police to arrest protesters on campus last month, including students who occupied a university building .

Three weeks of unrest at UCLA began on April 25, when students set up camp on the campus grass to express solidarity with the Palestinians, condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza, and demand that UCLA stand divest from companies that manufacture and supply weapons and services to Israel. The encampment was initially free of violence, with protesters engaging in classes, art building, yoga and other activities.

UCLA declared the encampment illegal on April 30. Later that night, a violent mob attacked the encampment and the students were left to their own devices for three hours against beatings, pepper spray and fireworks. Law enforcement in riot gear responded early on the morning of May 1, but it took hours to quell the violence.

Since then, many people have been singled out for this debacle. Internal and external investigations are underway.

News Source : www.latimes.com
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