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Sonoma State president put on leave for ‘insubordination’ for supporting Israel academic boycott, divestment

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The president of Sonoma State University was placed on leave Wednesday, a day after he released a controversial campuswide message on the Israel-Hamas war that said the university would pursue “divestment strategies” and endorsed an academic boycott of Israeli universities.

California State University Chancellor Mildred García announced the decision in a statement posted to the CSU website, saying that Sonoma State President Mike Lee was taken off the job for his “insubordination” in making the statement without “appropriate approvals.”

Pro-Palestinian student encampment protesters celebrated when Lee released a letter to the roughly 6,000-student member Rohnert Park campus on Tuesday that met enough of their requests for activists to agree to dismantle their camp by Wednesday evening.

“SSU Demands Met!” said a post on the SSU Students for Justice in Palestine Instagram with the caption “brick by brick, wall by wall” that showed screenshots of Lee’s letter.

In his letter, Lee promised to pursue “divestment strategies that include seeking ethical alternatives” in consultation with pro-Palestinian activists and said he supported an academic boycott of Israel.

“SSU will not pursue or engage in any study abroad programs, faculty exchanges, or other formal collaborations that are sponsored by, or represent, the Israeli state academic and research institutions,” Lee’s Tuesday letter said.

Lee’s statement stood out. While other universities have recently said they will look into divesting from weapons companies, including UC Berkeley and UC Riverside, nearly all in the U.S. have rejected calls to target Israel specifically or to boycott formal exchange or research partnerships with Israeli universities.

In opposing such calls, the universities have cited their support of academic freedom and anti-discrimination policies. Some have also noted that a 2016 state law signed by then Gov. Jerry Brown banned giving state grants or contracts worth more than $100,000 to state universities that targeted Israel in endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Lee’s statement immediately drew criticism from Jewish students, parents and community groups.

Speaking at a Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California conference in Sacramento on Wednesday, California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who serves on the CSU Board of Trustees, slammed campuses for moving forward with agreements to quell protests.

“Each campus is handling these situations in their own way with inconsistencies and frankly, sometimes coming up with agreements that they really don’t have the authority to come up with,” said Kounalakis, who spoke before Lee was put on leave.

Kounalakis, a Democrat, said campuses were “woefully unprepared” for the recent protests.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who made a video appearance at the same Wednesday event to promote his plan to counter antisemitism, said last week that he did “not support divestment.”

Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino) and Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), co-chairs of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, commended García‘s decision, saying in a statement that Lee’s support of an academic boycott “was totally unacceptable and evidence that former President Lee is unfit to lead one of our great state institutions. We look forward to working with Chancellor García and the CSU Trustees to pursue a different path that will promote learning, respectful dialogue, mutual respect, inclusivity, and peace.”

In her letter announcing that Lee would step aside, García said she was “deeply concerned” about his words.

“Our role as educators is to support and uplift all members of the California State University. I want to acknowledge how deeply concerned I am about the impact the statement has had on the Sonoma State community, and how challenging and painful it will be for many of our students and community members to see and read,” García said. “The heart and mission of the CSU is to create an inclusive and welcoming place for everyone we serve, not to marginalize one community over another.”

In his own letter on his departure, Lee apologized, saying he had “marginalized other members of our student population” and that “I realize the harm that this has caused, and I take full ownership of it. I deeply regret the unintended consequences of my actions.”

“I want to be clear: The message was drafted and sent without the approval of, or consultation with, the Chancellor or other system leaders. The points outlined in the message were mine alone, and do not represent the views of my colleagues or the CSU,” Lee wrote.

It was unclear how long Lee will be out. He has been on the job for 20 months, about half the time as interim president.

In an interview with The Times, kinesiology professor Lauren Morimoto said she supported Lee.

“As of now, the Academic Senate has not made a statement about Mike Lee’s announcement. However, I’m meeting with the Board of the Asian Pacific Islander American Faculty and Staff Association and we stand in solidarity with Mike Lee and the student protesters…,” said Morimoto, the former chair of the academic senate. “I will ask to be added to tomorrow’s agenda to present a resolution of support for Mike Lee and the student protesters and the demands they were able to negotiate with the university.”

Staff writers Colleen Shalby and Mackenzie Mays contributed reporting.



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Plan to shoot Catalina deer from helicopters is scrapped

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Santa Catalina Island’s evasive mule deer dodged a bullet — or several — on Wednesday.

At a special meeting of the Los Angeles County Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Catalina Island Conservancy, which controls 88% of the island, announced it was scrapping plans to eradicate the nonnative species by shooting them from helicopters with high-powered rifles.

L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose district includes the island, confirmed in a statement that the conservancy has “taken the aerial shooting proposal off the table.”

“I appreciate the Conservancy for listening to the serious concerns people had about this plan, especially from people living on the island,” Hahn said in a statement. “I heard from residents who were terrified at the thought of bullets raining down from helicopters over their beloved island and others who couldn’t stand the thought of the deer carcasses that would be left in their wake.”

Lauren Dennhardt, the conservancy’s senior director of conservation, did not respond to a request for comment. The group previously indicated that it would be open to considering other options for the best way to rid the island of the nonnative deer.

In her statement, Hahn said Dennhardt told the meeting that the conservancy was revising its plan “to prioritize other methodologies” in light of the concerns raised by Hahn and island residents.

Mule deer were introduced to the island in the 1930s as a game species for hunting, according to the conservancy.

Protesters hold picket signs on Catalina Island.

Protesters with the Coalition Against the Slaughter of Catalina Deer hold signs as island visitors arrive on the Catalina Express boat on Oct. 30, 2023.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Their population can range from 500 to 1,800, according to the conservancy. The group claims the invasive deer have destroyed natural habitat — including vegetation found only on the island — and exacerbated the risk of soil erosion in overgrazed areas.

As the conservancy continues to plot how to hasten their demise, the deer are starving and dying of thirst.

Photos presented at Wednesday’s meeting included a young dead deer lying on a paved walkway. Another showed a male deer scavenging through an Avalon resident’s trash can.

“The island and the deer are both fighting for survival, and neither one is winning,” Whitney Latorre, the conservancy’s chief executive, said in an interview in the fall. “Unless we address the deer issue, the island will become more and more vulnerable to the devastating consequences brought on by rising temperatures and drought.”

Hahn drafted a letter that the supervisors unanimously approved on April 23 opposing the proposal to hunt the deer from helicopters, calling it “inhumane and drastic.”

She said her letter was prompted by “an intense public outcry” that sprung up after the aerial sharpshooting proposal became public last year.

The conservancy’s original plan was to hire sharpshooters from the Connecticut-based nonprofit White Buffalo Inc. The group would use AR-15-style rifles with lead-free bullets, to avoid poisoning natural scavengers.

Some carcasses would remain where they fell, and those closer to Avalon and roadsides would be removed.

Ultimately, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife will decide whether to allow whatever plan the conservancy files to remove the deer. The agency hadn’t made a ruling on the helicopter proposal because it had been waiting for additional paperwork from the conservancy, a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson said.

 A mule deer doe licks its fawn on Catalina Island.

A mule deer doe licks its fawn on Catalina Island in 2023.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

It’s unclear what will happen next.

Hahn is asking that the conservancy reconsider alternative proposals previously dismissed, although she didn’t endorse any specific course of action, a spokesperson said.

The conservancy had considered fencing, recreational hunting, the introduction of natural predators, relocation, sterilization and chemical contraceptives before settling on aerial sharpshooting, which it said was an efficient way to quickly eliminate a large number of animals.

The main drawbacks included the loud sounds of gunfire, which could distress wildlife and residents.

In comparison, fencing was described as costly and challenging, given the island’s topography, while recreational hunting was generally ineffective, the conservancy said. Between 200 and 300 hunters visit the island annually, according to the conservancy.

Overall, there are about 4,200 residents and 1 million visitors to Catalina, which spans about 48,000 acres.

Opposition to aerial hunting has been intense. The advocacy group Coalition to Save Catalina Island Deer has collected more than 18,000 signatures since Sept. 23 on a petition opposing the concept.

Bernd Blossey, a natural resources and environment professor at Cornell University, said in an interview in April that aerial shooting was a standard form of extermination.

Blossey, who chairs the university’s deer management program, pointed to aerial shooting efforts used to eradicate feral goats on the Galapagos Islands and in New Zealand earlier this century.

Blossey also believes that calls to relocate the animals — as some conservationists want — may be more harmful than helpful.

“The capture is traumatic, the transport is traumatic and the success rates of doing both are poor,” he said. “Then they’re moved to areas that they don’t know and it’s just not a good thing.”

The American Assn. of Wildlife Veterinarians endorsed the aerial shooting on Wednesday via a letter, while the American Bird Conservancy, the California Botanic Garden and several others backed permanently removing the nonnative deer.



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Virginia mom says white students told her Asian American son to sit at ‘segregated’ table

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An after-school game took a troubling turn last Tuesday at Lyles Crouch Traditional Academy in Alexandria.

Mom Kathryn Kelley says a group of white students allegedly told her fifth-grade son, who is half Asian, that he couldn’t sit with them.

“[They were] saying that mixed race kids had to sit at a table that was away from the white kids, and then African American and Black kids had to sit even further,” Kelley told News4. “They said that they were segregated and that they couldn’t play with the white kids.”

Kelley says some students also allegedly teased the students of color, based on race and class.

“It was of course very difficult, it was confusing. He was trying to understand what was going on while also trying to stand up for his friends and trying to interrupt the situation, but not really knowing what to do,” Kelley said.

News4 obtained a letter sent by the school’s principal to parents last Friday, acknowledging an “inappropriate game” that caused some students to feel uncomfortable, as part of a “role play of a social studies lesson.”

The letter said, “Students often want to discuss troubling topics from class in a variety of ways, some of which may cause offense. This is certainly a challenge in educating our students and one that we must be keenly aware of when difficult topics are presented.”

Kelley feels there are steps that should have been taken.

“When kids are learning these things, like about segregation, learning about the history of white supremacy in the U.S. — they have to learn that, they need to learn that, but it’s not a game, and they need to learn the seriousness of these things.”

In the letter to families, the school’s principal said she plans to work with her team to incorporate lessons into the curriculum on thinking before you speak and act. The principal also said the school community has a collective responsibility to make sure all students feel valued and respected.

“I think we do it by perhaps starting with what children know,” said Greg Carr, an Afro American studies professor at Howard University.

Carr said lessons on inclusion can be simple, such as asking kids how they feel when they see TV characters who look like them. He also says guest speakers can be helpful.

“So a lesson on segregation could incorporate elders who lived through that period,” Carr said. “You know the implications of it now, from an elder who can tell you how much it hurt to be segregated.”

It is not yet clear if any students involved in the game faced discipline. The principle, in her letter to parents, said she could not say.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com



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How to ‘File Fold’ Clothing the KonMari Way

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You can use whatever method you want to declutter your home, but they all require you to find a good way to organize the items you choose to keep when you’re done. KonMari, arguably the most famous decluttering and cleaning technique, even advises you on how to fold your clothes when you’re finished deciding which ones spark joy for you—but this tip from Marie Kondo is too often overlooked in favor of her structured approach to paring down how much you own. Don’t let Kondo down by only following half her advice.

What is file folding?

This technique is one of Kondo’s original, most long-standing tips and comes straight from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Sometimes called “file folding,” this involves folding your clothes in a way that allows you to stand them up vertically in your drawers. 

The way you fold each kind of clothing will be different and you can try a few approaches until you figure out how to get each one to look like a triangle or rectangle and stand straight up. Here’s how Kondo recommends doing it on a few kinds of clothing items:

Once you get everything folded so it’s vertical, you can stack it front to back in the drawer. You’ll know you’re doing it right if you can see every item. 

Why file folding works

There are a few different benefits to folding your clothes this way. First, storing them vertically and with chunkier folds reduces wrinkles, especially because there are no items on the bottom that are being weighed down by ones on the top. 

Second, this allows you to see all your clothes, so you have a better sense of what you’ve got. It’s easy to forget what you already own, buy duplicates, or waste space on things you never wear if you can’t see your stuff, but this prevents all of that. 

Finally, you can store more this way than you can just plopping everything on top of each other, especially if you make crisp, small folds. While the ability to store more doesn’t necessarily help you declutter or reduce how much you have, it at least makes the drawers more organized, which prevents clutter and the space getting overwhelming. 

Make this easier by picking up a few flat baskets, like this set of four for $15.99, to keep every type of clothing separate and maintain structure even when some items are removed. 





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