SSU Academic Senate Meeting of 14 April 2022

Because of Spring Break, this was the first Academic Senate meeting since 17 March. Because of the high drama unfolding this week, over 150 people participated in the Senate’s zoom meeting. Normally attendance is about 50. (There are only about 20-24 voting members of the Senate.)

This meeting was devoted entirely to two very dramatic matters:

1) The recent press reports of allegations of sexual indiscretions by the President’s husband and the connection of these allegations to the departure of the previous Provost, who threatened to sue over allegations of retaliation by the President for reporting complaints about her husband to the Chancellor’s Office, and was given a settlement of $600,000.

2) The just-announced proposal to combine the Schools of Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences, given that the Dean of A&H is leaving at the end of this academic year. This is but a portion of extensive plans to try to bridge the $5.5 million budget deficit. See the Provost’s memo appended below, as well as the letter from the A&H Department Chairs.

Before discussions of these matters began, the Senate approved two items from EPC on the Consent calendar: Revisions to the Electrical Engineering BS and to the Business Administration BS. The Student Affairs Committee reported on Student Learning Objectives for SSU’s 2022 Orientation developed by SAC and AAS.

A special report by Police Chief Oweis was postponed, as were the two business items on this agenda:

1. From APARC: Priority Recommendations - First Reading                                  

2. From SAC: Proposed revision to SSU Attendance Policy - First Reading

1) The Senate spent 90 minutes dialoguing with President Sakaki about the press revelations. Apparently prior to the meeting some Senators had suggested to Chair Morimoto that perhaps a Resolution of No Confidence was called for, but the Chair made clear that she would not lead such a movement – although she would, of course, carry out her duties as Chair if such a Resolution came forward for a faculty vote.

Here is a timeline of relevant events, culled from reports in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. (The story was also carried in the Los Angeles Times.) As always we must beware of taking a press report as guaranteed truth!

The timeline:

Summer 2016: Sakaki takes over as President. She appoints an interim Provost for a year.

Summer 2017: Lisa Vollendorf takes over as Provost and serves 3 years. She is increasingly unpopular, regarded as an Armiñana in a different gender.

Sometime in 2018: Four female employees report to Vollendorf allegations of sexual harassment by Sakaki's husband. Vollendorf reports these to the CO's Title IX office, as she is required by law. The office investigates, as required by law, and finds that the four women are unwilling to press claims, so the investigation terminates. Sakaki is notified about the investigation. The Sonoma State spokesperson acknowledged that Chancellor White spoke with Sakaki about the reported concerns regarding her husband.

Per Vollendorf, Sakaki retaliates by reducing her job responsibilities and forcing her to undergo inappropriate therapy. Vollendorf alleges that she decides to leave the SSU Provostship given the intolerable conditions under which she must work.

Spring 2020: Vollendorf, Sakaki, and the CO reach an “amicable” agreement that includes (at least) that Vollendorf will work the following year at a meaningless job in the CO office in Long Beach (at SSU's expense), and that Sakaki and Vollendorf will say only nice things about each other: they "agreed to make only respectful, positive and professional statements". (Vollendorf did work at the CO office for the year, and that is not an issue.)

Some time later: Vollendorf finds out that Sakaki is violating the agreement, by saying derogatory things about her. “Concrete evidence emerged of President Sakaki’s interference with Dr. Vollendorf’s job prospects and defamatory statements about her,” the claim read. She accuses the CO of not forcing Sakaki to comply with the agreement, "negligently failing to control [Sakaki's] conduct as required by the 2020 agreement."

Late 2021: Vollendorf claims that both during her last year as Provost and in subsequent years, Sakaki's harassment and negative comments are retaliation for Vollendorf reporting the alleged Title IX violations against her husband, and that the negative comments specifically are violations of the agreement. Vollendorf also claims that the CO's Title IX investigations were "cursory" even though the allegations "painted a cohesive picture of harassment", and that the CSU failed to follow its own policy on handling harassment claims.

January 2022: The CSU folds upon the advice of counsel and decides Vollendorf has a pretty strong case against both Sakaki and the CSU, and will pay her $600,000 in hush money to avoid expensive litigation which the CSU might well lose.

The press has allegedly obtained copies of both the separation agreement and the settlement agreement, but we have seen neither. Apparently no one but the CSU’s counsel has seen the documentation which Vollendorf purports to have of Sakaki violating her commitment to say only positive things about her. And of course there is disagreement about whether and to what extent Sakaki’s husband committed sexual aggressions, and whether Sakaki’s hostile actions against Vollendorf were really “retaliations” or had other, defensible, justifications.

Throughout the Senate discussions, President Sakaki continually repeated that the Chancellor had placed her under constraint not to speak about the matter publicly. CSU lawyers review any public pronouncements she proposes to make about this matter. She claims to have told the Senate all that she is permitted to say. She spoke with the students before the Senate meeting, with the same constraint.

Many members referenced the recent allegations against former Chancellor Castro for similarly attempting to conceal sexual allegations against important University figures in order to protect the image and reputation of the CSU. This deplorable and unethical policy allows perpetrators to escape sanction and to go on to continue their depredations at other unsuspecting campuses.

The local CFA official who handles complaints of sexual harassment raised the question as to why Patrick McCallum, the President’s spouse, was not barred from the campus while these allegations against him were investigated. This, he says, is standard procedure, in his experience, in order to protect complainants from retaliation or further harassment. President Sakaki pointed out that the claims of sexual harassment were not reported to the campus’s Title IX enforcement personnel but rather directly to the CSU’s Title IX group, so she didn’t know anything about these matters till after the CSU investigation was completed. However, as of this meeting she still had not directed her husband to stay away from the campus. [After this meeting, news came out that the President has announced her decision to separate from her spouse.]

During the conversation several persons in attendance, primarily women, said they don’t feel safe on the campus, and believe that when they do report offenses they are retaliated against. And the threat of such retaliation is enough to prevent many victims from even reporting them.

Some members of the Senate complained that recent SSU press releases on this matter have come from the “Administration”, not the “University”, as no voices of faculty, staff, or students were included, and therefore have been misleadingly characterized in press releases.

The CFA Chapter President reported that the CFA is going to request that the Legislature investigate these persistent Title IX violations throughout the CSU.

Members called on the President for a public apology, but these following remarks made by her are the closest the Senate got for an apology. She decried

>>  the “sensational” character of reports of her husband’s alleged sexual harassment;
>>  that the egregious nature of her husband’s alleged offenses “takes our time” (presumably diverting the Senators’ attention and energy from the Senate’s important business at hand);
>>  that this  “takes the lead”, presumably among the many and really important matters before the Academic Senate;
>>  that this sort of diversion “takes your energy” from the important concerns of the Academic Senate and its Senators.

Also, President Sakaki confessed that she is “really embarrassed”.

2)    Report on Budget Cuts

A report was released the day before the Senate meeting from the “Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Working Group”. The document is appended below. The Provost explained that the University must close a $15-17 M budget hole before the next fiscal year begins on 1 July, and that the Academic Affairs Division has been charged to contribute $5.5 M toward this deficit.

The campus was stunned to learn that a significant proposal in this report is to merge the Schools of Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences, taking advantage of the fact that the A&H Dean is leaving her position at the end of this academic year. Perhaps more stunning is that this report suggests that the combining of these Schools is a “done deal”, and that it was done with virtually no campus-wide discussion. Such discussion as there was came about because of premature announcements in the STAR obtained from leaked documents, which were only preliminary and did not represent the group’s final conclusions. The STAR’s coverage was characterized as “fake news”.

As range of concerns was expressed about the proposal including

  •   A&H and Social Sciences have little in common;
  •   We’re still in COPLAC, but are we still a Liberal Arts institution?;
  •   Will programs be cut and majors eliminated, or is the entire savings one Dean’s salary?;
  •   This seems a recipe for mediocrity;
  •   There can be no significant restructuring, such as combining Schools, without faculty consultation;
  •   Are these changes temporary or permanent?;
  •   Maybe SSU needs some restructuring but it should be more deliberative and include broad consultation;
  •   The plan is “accepted” by the Provost (but she says no, only “received”), and is slated for “immediate implementation”;

Additional concerns are expressed in the letter from the A&H Department Chairs, which is appended to this report.

The AABAWG charge was to achieve the desired savings without terminating any permanent jobs, of faculty or staff. But Lecturer representatives commented on the fact that the commitment to lay off no permanent employees leaves the burden squarely on temporary employees, including Adjunct Instructors, to suffer all of the personnel reductions – and this group includes more than half the teaching faculty.

A few other complaints were aired at this meeting, including questions about why the Townhouses in the M section across Cotati Ave from the campus were sold (“they were degraded and the University did not have the funds to rehabilitate them”), and why the Marina Crossing apartment complex in Petaluma is doing so poorly (“it is 100% rented”; yes, but not to University personnel, because they can’t afford them).

-- Submitted by Rick Luttmann

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April 14, 2022

To:       The Division of Academic Affairs

From:   Dr. Karen Moranski, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
             Dr. Emily Acosta Lewis, Co-chair, Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Working Group
             Mike Ogg, Co-Chair, Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Working Group

RE: Budget Reduction Recommendations from the Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Working Group

Beginning in Summer 2021, the division of Academic Affairs began planning for a $5.5 million budget reduction, which represents a 12% reduction in the overall budget for the division. After discussions and meetings between Provost Moranski and Chair of the Faculty, Lauren Morimoto, the Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Working Group (AABAWG) was created. That group is a representative body of staff, administrators, and faculty from all five academic schools and the Library. Going into the discussions, all members of AABAWG were keenly aware that the decisions would be difficult and would impact people and departments across Academic Affairs. The parameters set by the Provost in consultation with President Sakaki stipulated there would be no layoffs of tenure-track faculty or staff. 

Through careful deliberation, detailed analysis, and compassion for all Academic Affairs stakeholders, AABAWG has developed a set of proposed recommendations to help Academic Affairs achieve the required $5.5M reduction. The group is aware that their proposed recommendations will require careful consideration and review by multiple stakeholders. Discussions at the unit and department level, as well as at the divisional level, must occur, and those must feed into the process of decision-making. Ultimately, it is the Provost’s decision to determine how cuts are made, but the process must balance the ability to provide the kind of education we are proud of and the need to achieve reductions that sustain our division in a smaller institution. 

The recommendations of the Budget Advisory Working Group are thoughtful, complex, and reflective of the depth of discussion in the working group, and they have far-reaching implications for all areas of the campus community. The group examined quantitative and qualitative data related to the organization, structure, operations, and goals of the division. The working group maintained a steady focus on serving our multiple student populations and on supporting faculty and staff through a time of complex change.

As part of the agreement related to the sensitive nature of these budget reductions, the group members agreed to ensure the confidentiality of discussions and decision-making. That agreement empowered the group to engage in challenging and innovative discussions, and to avoid causing unnecessary fear and speculation in the campus community. We are disappointed to report that members of the campus community have begun to share inaccurate information and have released early versions of working group documents to media sources, including the campus newspaper. Everyone involved is disappointed that this is happening because it has the potential to undermine the process. The working group and Provost Moranski stand together and endeavor to look for new ways to advance the university’s mission while acknowledging the economic realities we face. 

We understand that people are stressed, upset, and worried about the forthcoming budget reductions. We also understand that when budget reduction discussions begin, it can be hard to focus on the overarching needs of the whole campus or the whole division. Indeed, it becomes more likely that groups divide and retrench to protect their turf. We should do everything in our power to think holistically and institutionally even as we worry about the impacts of budget cuts. 

The working group has worked with the assumption that “everything is on the table,” with the exception of layoffs. We have discussed program health and related criteria, as well as new program combinations and new organizational structures. Program health means faculty, staff and administrators examine the costs of programs and their value to students, disciplines, and community. It also means finding ways to change operations and organizational structures and explore curricular models to determine how to achieve program objectives and educate students while preserving resources.  Program discontinuance is not one of the recommendations, but we are exploring alternative funding models for some programs, such as self-support, private funding, or a combination of the two. Such changes are never immediate; they must be enacted strategically over a period of time. It has always been the intention that impacted departments would be intimately involved in these discussions moving forward so that our decisions represent our collective best thinking.

It was also always part of the formal communications plan to discuss recommendations with those directly involved after the group’s recommendations were formally presented to and accepted by Provost Moranski, which happened on April 5, 2022. The communications plan also calls for individual, small group, larger group, and divisional meetings.

In the spirit of transparency and shared decision-making, we share the table below of the accepted reductions to address the immediate $5.5 million dollar shortfall, along with the savings within each category. In the short-term, base funding will be reduced by $2,995,000 to accomplish items 1, 2, 4, and 6. Reorganization and Program Health Evaluations will take more time and will require the use of one-time funding to cover the 2022-23 fiscal year. One-time funding in the amount of $2,525,000 will be identified as a bridge while additional evaluation regarding program health occurs with departments and their faculty and staff.  

Recommended Reductions

Category Savings

Total Savings

Salary Savings



1. Early Exit Program (EEP) savings (TTF- $1.3M, Staff- $350k)*



2. IT department reorganization savings*



3. Academic leadership reorganization - salary savings



School Savings



4. Form new School with SS and A&H: MPP savings from A&H Dean*



5. Program health evaluations and savings through alternative funding sources



6. School-based miscellaneous reductions*






*immediate implementation

We understand that this information likely brings up many different questions and concerns. In the coming weeks, there will be a number of opportunities to discuss the recommendations and ask questions, through shared governance in meetings of Academic Senate and Staff Council, as well as through department and school meetings and forums dedicated specifically to the Academic Affairs Budget Affairs Working Group report. We look forward to engaging with the campus community. 

The full budget recommendations document will go out to campus on Friday, April 15, 2022 before Provost Moranski presents the budget recommendations to the Academic Senate. Please visit our website to view the whole report. This document will outline more details related to each of the following reduction recommendations; however, given the information that was prematurely and inaccurately released, we felt it was necessary and important to communicate these recommendations broadly and transparently.

For any questions or concerns feel free to reach out to either of the co-chairs or your School/unit contact on the AABAWG membership page

Dr. Karen R. Moranski

She I Her I Hers

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs

Sonoma State University

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April 14, 2022

The Council of Chairs and the Curriculum Committee of the School of Arts and Humanities unanimously reject the process that has led to the decision to merge the School of Arts and Humanities with the School of Social Sciences, and condemns its lack of transparency.

While we understand there is a budget deficit and difficult decisions need to be made, we firmly believe decisions involving major structural or organizational changes to faculty units on campus should be made only after publicly and fully examining the potential impacts of those proposed changes.

The administration is trying to represent this decision as "collaborative" because there were faculty members on the committee. However, those faculty members were hand-picked by the Office of the Provost. Only one faculty each from the School of Arts and Humanities and the School of Social Sciences were on the committee. And the dean who has now been slated to head up both schools was also on the committee, which we view as a serious conflict of interest. No one in Arts and Humanities, including the department chairs or any of our other elected representatives, were even informed that this proposal to merge schools was on the table, let alone asked for input. This process has been anything but transparent.

In addition, we believe trying to move this kind of structural change forward at the same time the current administration finds itself embroiled in a public scandal is ill-advised.

We therefore ask that no final decision be made on merging the School of Arts and Humanities and the School of Social Sciences until the implications of such a move have been fully and publicly examined, and ample time has been given for faculty input and debate.


Kim Hester Williams                                      Christine Renaudin

American Multi-Cultural Studies                   Art and Art History

Ronald Lopez                                                 Edward Beebout

Chicano and Latino Studies                            Communication and Media Studies

Stefan Kiesbye                                                Stephanie Dyer

English                                                            Hutchins

Michaela Grobbel                                           Andy Collingsworth

Modern Languages                                         Music

Joshua Glasgow                                              Christine Cali

Philosophy                                                      Theatre Arts and Dance