U.C.L.A. Meeting to Consider Rebuking Chancellor Ends Without Vote

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The Academic Senate at the University of California, Los Angeles, failed to come to a vote on Friday on whether to formally rebuke the school’s chancellor, Gene Block, after pro-Palestinian demonstrators were attacked for hours last week without police intervention and more than 200 protesters were later arrested as their encampment was dismantled.

The virtual meeting was attended by several hundred members of the Senate, which includes all faculty members who meet certain criteria. Only members of a smaller group known as the Legislative Assembly, which consists of representatives selected by campus departments, would have been allowed to vote on a no-confidence resolution and a censure resolution.

A vote of no confidence in Mr. Block would have been the harsher of the two measures.

“For many of us, we feel strongly that the actions and inaction of our chancellor warrant a vote of no confidence,” said Carlos Santos, an associate professor of social welfare who represents the Luskin School of Public Affairs in the Assembly, before the meeting. “We feel strongly that it’s critical that we go down in history as centering our students’ safety, first and foremost.”

But after more than three hours of discussion, much of it devoted to parliamentary procedure, the meeting ended without a vote. The group will take up the issue again at its next meeting, on May 16.

Mr. Block, 75, did not comment on the resolutions on Friday. He has served as chancellor of U.C.L.A. since 2007 and has already said that he will step down at the end of July. But the vote could still serve as an important indicator of how faculty members at the elite public university feel about free speech and the campus climate in a polarized era.

On Friday, dozens of speakers recounted rushing to help students who had been beaten, their eyes streaming from chemical agents. Medical school faculty members described hearing from medical students and residents who had been attacked as they tried to treat injured protesters.

Many emphasized that a vote of no confidence was simply that: an indication that Mr. Block had lost the backing of the faculty, and a sign to the incoming administration that faculty members would not hesitate to speak up on behalf of students. It was not, they said, a referendum on the views of the protesters themselves.

Relatively few speakers opposed the measures, though a couple voiced concerns about antisemitism among protesters at the encampment.

If the Senate passes one or both resolutions, U.C.L.A. will join a list of universities whose faculty and staff have united with protesters to rebuke their administrators’ handling of pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

Earlier this week, the Academic Senate at the University of Southern California voted to censure its president. The University Senate at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, took a vote of no confidence last month in its president, Tom Jackson Jr., after law enforcement officers in riot gear responded to activists who took over an administration building.

Frustration with Mr. Block has mounted since the night of April 30, when a large group of counterprotesters confronted a pro-Palestinian encampment that had sprawled across a campus quad days earlier.

Administrators initially took a more hands-off approach to the encampment than other universities, citing University of California policy that law enforcement was to be called “only if absolutely necessary to protect the physical safety of our campus community.”

But on April 30, the sixth day of the encampment, Mr. Block declared the site illegal and warned protesters to leave. He cited some violent incidents between protesters and counterprotesters, as well as examples of pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocking access to parts of the campus.

Counterprotesters arrived later that night and sprayed students with pepper spray, shot fireworks into the encampment and used metal pipes and other objects to attack protesters. Police and security officers who were present for parts of the melee didn’t intervene for hours, and no arrests have been made in the attacks.

The next night, administrators authorized police officers from three agencies to clear the encampment.

Criticism from members of the campus community, as well as state and local officials, was swift. Mr. Block called it “a dark chapter in our campus’s history.”

He subsequently established an office of campus safety, with a former police chief at its head, to oversee the university’s police department. He also brought in outside consultants to investigate what happened during the attacks.

Until then, “We thought the university was handling it great,” said Matt Barreto, a professor of political science and Chicano studies who has been acting as a spokesman for a faculty group that has been supporting the protesters. So the sudden change in approach and in particular, what Mr. Barreto characterized as an overly violent police response, was jarring.

Some Jewish organizations, however, were upset by videos of protesters blocking students from accessing walkways or buildings if they did not renounce Zionism. Jewish Federation Los Angeles said the climate had become hostile to Jewish students and that there had been a “horrifying escalation of antisemitism.”



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