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

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 31: Gene Block , 74, the current and 6th chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) since August 2007, on the campus of UCLA on Monday, July 31, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block walks through campus in 2023. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Representatives of the UCLA Academic Senate have voted against censuring or making a “no confidence” statement against UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, rejecting a call to issue a formal disapproval of his leadership amid criticism over the university’s response to a violent mob attack at pro-Palestinian campus encampment more than two weeks ago.

On a “no confidence” resolution, 79 faculty members approved, 103 opposed, five abstained, and seven members were present but did not vote, with only 43% of voters voting against UCLA’s top leader.

On censure, 88 faculty members approved, 88 opposed three abstained and 15 were present but did not vote. Since the vote was split 50% for and against censure, it did not pass as it needed a majority to succeed.

“This shows that many faculty support Chancellor Block and they understand that he was adhering to UC policy,” said a source who was not authorized to speak publicly. “People are realizing that Chancellor Block was put in an impossible situation.”

The decision by the academic senate, 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 grievously mishandled the events” related the pro-Palestinian encampment at the university that began on April 25. On April 30 a mob attacked the encampment overnight amid a delayed police response, leading to multiple injuries. Police later moved in to take down of the encampment, arresting more than 200 protesters. The noconfidence and censure motions used the same language.

Read more:Congress investigating UCLA over treatment of Jewish students amid pro-Palestinian protests

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

Still, the move marked another somber moment for the leader of the nation’s top public research university even as he withstood the challenges to his leadership. Block is ending his 17-year tenure in controversy after years of praise for steering the campus through a financial crisis and global pandemic by expanding enrollment, diversity, philanthropy and research funding. Block, a biologist, announced last year that he will step down on July 31 to return to research.

Renee Tajima, a professor of Asian American studies and academic senate legislative assembly member, said the vote for censure and no confidence was a “no brainer.”

“Who was in charge as our students were being beaten and injured as nobody from the university administration did anything to help them?” said Tajima. “To imagine students were brutally attacked and then the next day Block calls this huge police force to arrest them and use rubber bullets on them. … This vote is the least we can do as faculty to make a statement of what’s right and what’s wrong.”

The senate’s decision takes one issue off a list of mounting challenges the chancellor faces in his last six weeks on the job.

Read more:USC’s faculty senate censures President Carol Folt and provost over commencement

In a Wednesday letter, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, requested that Block, UC President Michael V. Drake and Rich Leib, chair of the UC Board of Regents, produce all documents, communications and security videos related to alleged antisemitic events at UCLA since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

The committee gave a May 21 deadline, two days ahead of a Washington, D.C., hearing in which Block and his counterparts from Michigan and Yale will testify on antisemitism at college campuses — the latest in a series of congressional hearings that have featured the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, and the superintendent of Berkeley public schools.

The vote regarding Block’s leadership is the latest in several similar actions by U.S. university faculty over how administrations have dealt with pro-Palestinian protests.

On May 8, the USC academic senate voted to censure President Carol Folt and Provost Andrew Guzman over “widespread dissatisfaction and concern among the faculty about administrative actions and decisions” related to the cancellation of a pro-Palestinian student’s valedictorian speech and riot police clearing a campus encampment.

On Thursday, 61% of faculty members in the Columbia University School of Arts and Sciences voted “no confidence” in President Minouche Shafik, who is under fire for multiple decisions to send in police to arrest campus protesters last month, including students who occupied a…

Read More: UCLA Academic Senate rejects censure and ‘no confidence’ vote on Chancellor Gene

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