Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki kept her profile low on Saturday, refraining from the annual Seawolf Decision Day as talk escalated over possible protests if Sakaki officiated at award ceremonies. diplomas on May 21 and 22.

At an event designed to introduce prospective students to the 270-acre Rohnert Park campus, Michael Young, the school’s vice president of student affairs, served as the keynote speaker during the welcome session. 11 a.m. at Weill Hall.

Six other SSU administrators, students and alumni took turns on the podium. But Sakaki, who is embroiled in retaliatory charges against a former administrator who sounded the alarm over alleged inappropriate behavior by the president’s husband, lobbyist Patrick McCallum, was nowhere to be found.

After the welcome session, Young said he didn’t know if Sakaki was on campus on Saturday.

When asked if his absence had detracted from an otherwise joyous occasion for college, he smiled broadly and said, “Come on. It’s a beautiful day. I love this program and this amazing campus. Just a great day.

SSU was expecting at least 1,200 visitors at Decision Day, according to Rich Toledo, the school’s director of student outreach and recruitment. The day serves as a first look for many students who have been admitted for the upcoming fall semester or who are on the waiting list for admission. It was Sonoma State’s first in-person decision day since 2020, after two years of pandemic-driven remote events.

The incoming families seemed unaware of the controversy currently gnawing at Sakaki and McCallum. One mum said she “might have seen something online”. Most acknowledged that they had no idea of ​​the revelations that have emerged over the past two weeks.

Current students had varying levels of interest.

Isley Grguric, a varsity junior from Laguna Niguel and a member of the Seawolves women’s golf team, said she read a brief account in the school newspaper and received a few emails from the administration of the SSU offering resources to students if they were experiencing harassment or sexual assault. . Most students are aware of the charges against Sakaki, but are largely focused on other things, she said.

“School is out in a month,” Grguric said. “Everyone is just trying to go all the way.”

Seniors Mitch Davis and Emma Molloy were more definitive in their feelings. Representing KSUN, the campus radio station, at an information table outside the Sonoma State Student Union, they demanded that Sakaki explain his actions more clearly.

“We’re very against it right now, as a student body,” said Davis, the station’s general manager. “And we really want to see a job change or something for her to prove she’s capable of leading our school.”

Molloy, a Sonoma County native, is also disappointed with Sakaki, who has declined to be interviewed by The Press Democrat — and by KSUN — since the newspaper broke the story of a $600,000 settlement between the system of California State University and Lisa Vollendorf, a former SSU provost who claimed the president vindictively limited his responsibilities after Vollendorf reported sexual harassment complaints against McCallum.

“When I came to this school, I was really excited to have a female president, especially a person of color,” Molloy said. “And to hear all that’s going on, it’s really frustrating as a woman to know that your president doesn’t care about the women in his community.”

The next crossroads in Sakaki’s career path could come on Thursday, when the Sonoma State Academic Senate is expected to vote on a resolution to issue a vote of no confidence to the university’s roughly 500 faculty members. Last Thursday, the 17-member Senate Executive Committee — a mix of students, faculty and administrators — voted unanimously to forward the resolution to the entire body.

Meanwhile, SSU graduation ceremonies are now less than a month away.

Davis originally planned to boycott if Sakaki officiated. But several professors encouraged students to attend, he said, arguing that it would be more appropriate to protest her involvement, such as by carrying a message of condemnation or turning her back on the president while she speak. Davis thinks faculty members will also speak out about his involvement.

The elder said that while he is “frustrated and embarrassed” by the current climate on campus, he is not at all surprised at what he perceives to be a leadership vacuum.

“For the past four years, everything that’s happened, the way they’re handling it is the worst it can be,” Davis said. “We have seen it with the fires. Same for the water when the water was coming out. Power outages over the past four years. It’s no surprise that it happens again. »

It was a harsh note on a sunny, windy, and generally festive day on this lovely rural campus. Seawolf Decision Day went off without a hitch, but it was a little harder for some veterans to keep smiling.

“Trying to entice students to come here is kind of wrong, you know?” Molly said. “Because none of us are really happy with college right now.”

You can reach Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or [email protected] On Twitter @Skinny_Post.

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