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Longtime Sacramento State administrator tapped to head Sonoma State in wake of Sakaki’s resignation

What you need to know about the Sonoma State scandal

Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki is embroiled in a scandal stemming from a $600,000 settlement paid to a former SSU provost who said she faced retaliation after relaying reports of alleged sexual harassment by the president’s estranged husband, lobbyist Patrick McCallum.

The Press Democrat on April 13 was the first to report California State University system paid former provost Lisa Vollendorf and her attorneys $600,000 in January to settle the retaliation claims.

Vollendorf, who was provost at SSU from 2017 to June 2020, filed the retaliation claim with the CSU system in July 2021. Her claim accused Sakaki of retaliating against her in response to reports Vollendorf made of sexual harassment complaints by SSU female employees against McCallum.

Since then, at least two university employees have stated that McCallum made them feel uncomfortable with inappropriate language, standing too close, and brushing their hair from their face in what was perceived as an unwelcome intimate gesture.

The university had stated the $600,000 was paid by insurance, but later backtracked, saying about $250,000 of the sum came from campus funds drawn from student tuition, fees and other sources.

Sakaki has denied retaliation and McCallum has denied wrongdoing. She has also declined repeated interview requests.

Several days after the initial Press Democrat report, McCallum sent a late-night email he said was intended for close friends and family, stating that Vollendorf leveled the accusations against him and Sakaki to cover for her poor job performance.

After The Press Democrat obtained a copy of the email, he sent a follow-up statement stating that he had a hearing impairment that led him to stand close to people and apologizing for making anyone feel uncomfortable.

The following day, Sakaki announced she was separating from McCallum.

While Sakaki has kept a low profile, the revelations have dominated campus news and added to the scrutiny surrounding CSU’s handling of sexual harassment complaints.

On April 28, the Academic Senate advanced to the full faculty a no-confidence vote on Sakaki’s leadership, and student groups have marched in protest of Sakaki, calling for her resignation. Some students have vowed to boycott graduation ceremonies if she does not.

Voting by faculty began May 6 and ended May 9 with approval of the no-confidence resolution.

Sakaki announced June 7 she would resign at the end of July. On June 27, Ming-Tung “Mike” Lee, a longtime Sacramento State administrator, was named the incoming interim SSU president.

California State University Interim Chancellor Jolene Kester has selected Ming-Tung “Mike” Lee, a longtime Sacramento State administrator, to head Sonoma State on an interim basis after President Judy Sakaki departs July 31.

Lee, whose selection was announced Monday in a news release, will assume the presidency Aug. 1 and remain in place through June 2023, as the CSU Board of Trustees launches a national search for the next regularly appointed president.

He will step into the role after Sakaki steps down, resigning in the wake of a sexual harassment and retaliation scandal involving her and her husband that enveloped her presidency in its sixth year and the final months of the spring semester.

CSU and Sonoma State officials said Lee would not be available for interviews until he assumes the presidency. A phone call and voice mail left with him by The Press Democrat seeking comment was not returned by Monday evening.

Lee previously spent 28 years as a member of the faculty and administration at Sacramento State, and since his retirement in 2018, has held emeritus status as a professor of business administration.

He joined the university in 1990 as an associate professor of marketing, moving up to a professor position in 1997, according to the CSU news release.

He worked as an associate vice president and dean/vice provost for academic programs from 2005 to 2010. From 2010 to 2018, Lee served as the vice president for Administration and Business Affairs/chief financial officer, and also led the Academic Affairs division while serving as the interim provost and vice president in 2016-17.

Lee earned a bachelor’s degree in literature from Tunghai University in Taichung, Taiwan, and a master’s degree in international commerce and a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Kentucky.

At SSU, his salary will be set at the same rate as Sakaki’s, currently $324,052 with a $60,000 housing stipend, and is subject to approval from the Board of Trustees. It will vote on his appointment at its July meeting, according to the news release.

Sakaki, who has led Sonoma State University since July 2016, announced on June 7 she would be resign at the end of July.

Her announcement came nearly eight weeks after The Press Democrat first reported California State University paid a $600,000 settlement in January to a former Sonoma State provost to resolve a retaliation claim related to sexual harassment complaints from several female university employees against Sakaki’s husband, education lobbyist Patrick McCallum.

She faced mounting calls to step down in the wake of those revelations, including from two North Bay legislators who spoke out after Sakaki lost a faculty no-confidence vote in early May.

Napa Sen. Bill Dodd, who along with Sen. Mike McGuire called for Sakaki to resign, welcomed Lee in a statement Monday.

“I welcome Dr. Lee to Sonoma State,” said Dodd, whose district includes the Rohnert Park campus. “I wish him great success as he works to restore trust and set the university on course to meet its challenges.”

“As recruitment for a permanent leader continues, I urge the chancellor’s office and board of trustees to find a leader who embodies the transparency, efficacy, and commitment to diversity and inclusion needed to help SSU reach new heights,” he said.

Lauren Morimoto, chair of the faculty, said she doesn’t know much yet about Lee. But she noted that he rose from the faculty, which was a priority several faculty members voiced after Sakaki announced her resignation.

“The interim chancellor said he also has the kind of temperament that she said will work well on a campus where we’re trying to make some really tough decisions about the budget and trying to repair some of the relationships between faculty and the administration.”

As part of her resignation agreement, Sakaki has been granted a yearlong administrative position with the Chancellor’s Office for $254,438 before being offered the option to transition to a faculty post in the CSU system.

She has declined interview requests made to SSU headquarters and her personal spokesman since the beginning of the crisis in April.

You can reach Staff Writer Kaylee Tornay at 707-521-5250 or kaylee.tornay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ka_tornay.

Kaylee Tornay

Education, The Press Democrat

Learning is a transformative experience. Beyond that, it’s a right, under the law, for every child in this country. But we also look to local schools to do much more than teach children; they are tasked with feeding them, socializing them and offering skills in leadership and civics. My job is to help you make sense of K-12 education in Sonoma County and beyond.  

What you need to know about the Sonoma State scandal

Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki is embroiled in a scandal stemming from a $600,000 settlement paid to a former SSU provost who said she faced retaliation after relaying reports of alleged sexual harassment by the president’s estranged husband, lobbyist Patrick McCallum.

The Press Democrat on April 13 was the first to report California State University system paid former provost Lisa Vollendorf and her attorneys $600,000 in January to settle the retaliation claims.

Vollendorf, who was provost at SSU from 2017 to June 2020, filed the retaliation claim with the CSU system in July 2021. Her claim accused Sakaki of retaliating against her in response to reports Vollendorf made of sexual harassment complaints by SSU female employees against McCallum.

Since then, at least two university employees have stated that McCallum made them feel uncomfortable with inappropriate language, standing too close, and brushing their hair from their face in what was perceived as an unwelcome intimate gesture.

The university had stated the $600,000 was paid by insurance, but later backtracked, saying about $250,000 of the sum came from campus funds drawn from student tuition, fees and other sources.

Sakaki has denied retaliation and McCallum has denied wrongdoing. She has also declined repeated interview requests.

Several days after the initial Press Democrat report, McCallum sent a late-night email he said was intended for close friends and family, stating that Vollendorf leveled the accusations against him and Sakaki to cover for her poor job performance.

After The Press Democrat obtained a copy of the email, he sent a follow-up statement stating that he had a hearing impairment that led him to stand close to people and apologizing for making anyone feel uncomfortable.

The following day, Sakaki announced she was separating from McCallum.

While Sakaki has kept a low profile, the revelations have dominated campus news and added to the scrutiny surrounding CSU’s handling of sexual harassment complaints.

On April 28, the Academic Senate advanced to the full faculty a no-confidence vote on Sakaki’s leadership, and student groups have marched in protest of Sakaki, calling for her resignation. Some students have vowed to boycott graduation ceremonies if she does not.

Voting by faculty began May 6 and ended May 9 with approval of the no-confidence resolution.

Sakaki announced June 7 she would resign at the end of July. On June 27, Ming-Tung “Mike” Lee, a longtime Sacramento State administrator, was named the incoming interim SSU president.

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