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Bruins in Paris

UCLA Academic Senate to decide on censure of, no-confidence vote in Gene Block

Chancellor Gene Block is pictured. Leading Academic Senate faculty will meet Friday to discuss Block’s leadership of the university. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

By Shaanth Kodialam

May 9, 2024 11:37 p.m.

Leading UCLA Academic Senate faculty will consider two proposals criticizing Chancellor Gene Block’s leadership during an emergency meeting Friday as he faces scrutiny over UCLA’s handling of the Palestine solidarity encampment.

The recent controversy surrounding the encampment has raised questions about what decisions contributed to the April 30 attack on the encampment as well as the mass mobilization of the police force used in the following day’s sweep, wrote the former, current and incoming chairs of the UCLA Academic Senate – Jessica Cattelino, Andrea Kasko and Kathy Bawn, respectively – in a Tuesday message.

The trio announced an emergency two-hour teleconference senate legislative assembly meeting in response to these concerns. The assembly includes faculty delegates from each department in proportion to those departments’ sizes. Copies of Friday’s resolutions, which are attached to the meeting agenda, indicate two potential decisions at Friday’s meeting: a vote of no confidence in or the censuring of Block. The resolutions both say that Block “failed to ensure the safety of our students and grievously mishandled the events of last week.”

“The purpose of this meeting is to consider the adoption of two separate resolutions proposed by voting Legislative Assembly members,” according to an email sent to members of the Academic Senate on Wednesday evening.

The meeting follows over a dozen academic departmental statements – predominantly in the humanities and social sciences – criticizing Block’s handling of the encampment, with some calling for a vote of no confidence or his resignation. The chancellor is already facing questions from Republican federal lawmakers over his handling of antisemitism on campus. Although a vote of no confidence by faculty may be symbolic given that Block is set to step down at the end of July, his critics say it’s an important expression to make as the university grapples with the fallout of the encampment protests.

“Someone has to be held accountable for this because there’s a real deep wound in our community,” said Kevin Terraciano, who is the chair of the history department – which has issued two critical statements signed by the majority of the department’s faculty. “Before we can talk about reconciliation, we need to talk about justice.”

[Related: UCLA academic departments release statements condemning handling of encampment]

The violent mob that attacked pro-Palestine demonstrators the night of April 30 attacked individuals in the encampment using tools like tear gas, fireworks and wooden planks. Local and state officials have condemned UCLA for the lack of engagement from law enforcement for hours amid the violence. The following night, demonstrators – including students – reported injuries after police officers used rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to breach the encampment.

UCPD’s police union has blamed campus leadership for the late response. UC President Michael Drake reportedly called for an independent investigation into the university’s security response May 1, and Block has previously expressed support for the inquiry.

A full investigation into the matter that also looks into the role of UCPD and LAPD in the university’s response is needed, Terraciano added.

Some faculty want students to be present to give their testimony, but it’s not clear whether they will all be allowed in, said Carlos Santos, an associate professor of social welfare and a legislative representative for his department. The email announcing the resolution said select student observers are allowed to attend the meeting, and Senate bylaws suggest that Academic Affairs Commissioner Sujana Sridhar has control over at least five of the undergraduate student observers chosen.

Sridhar did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication about the perspectives of the students she chose to attend the meeting.

Many departments in the sciences have yet to voice support or opposition to the vote. The Bruin reached out to multiple South Campus academic departments. Some of them said their departments had too much internal disagreement to create a formal statement, and others said they were more focused on supporting their students.

In an emailed statement, Kasko confirmed that the meeting was taking place and outlined the processes for how the Academic Senate would handle the matter. Bylaws she pointed to suggest that the move of no confidence or censure could be delayed if enough faculty voice support for additional rounds of voting. She said in the statement that students will not be able to attend the meeting but added that there will be designated student representatives allowed.

A spokesperson for Block and UCLA said they may have further comment Friday.

If a resolution were to pass at the assembly, it could take at least 10 days of instruction after a “notification of action” for it to be considered final, Kasko said in the statement. That notification must be sent within 15 instruction days after Friday’s meeting.

Other university leaders have also seen retribution from faculty over their handling of recent protests over the Israel-Hamas war. The president of Barnard College lost a faculty confidence vote April 30 amid criticism of her response to a Palestine solidarity encampment on its campus. The University of Southern California’s Academic Senate voted Wednesday to censure its president and provost over their handling of controversies related to the war but fell short of a call for resignation.

Contributing reports by Sam Mulick, Daily Bruin reporter.

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Shaanth Kodialam | News senior staff
Kodialam is a News senior staff reporter for the Bruin. They were previously the 2022-2023 features and student life editor and a 2021-2022 News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a third-year communication and geography student.
Kodialam is a News senior staff reporter for the Bruin. They were previously the 2022-2023 features and student life editor and a 2021-2022 News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a third-year communication and geography student.
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