Contact Form

    News Details

    UCI educator group wants a no-confidence vote for Chancellor Howard Gillman
    • May 30, 2024

    A group of professors and other educators at UC Irvine said Wednesday that Chancellor Howard Gillman should be subject to a vote of no-confidence or official censure based on his handling of pro-Palestinian protests on campus this month.

    The call to rebuke Gillman came in a new “Fact-Check” report written by the Irvine Faculty Association, in which professors and others who were at UCI during a chaotic May 15 protest offer point-by-point rebuttals to claims from Gillman about how the day’s events unfolded.

    The events at UCI, which included a two-week encampment, were part of a national wave of campus protests related to Israel’s military campaign against Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

    Overall, the Irvine Faculty Association — which reviewed video and eyewitness accounts from more than a dozen faculty — argued that UCI officials consistently insinuated that the pro-Palestinian protesters on their campus posed a threat to public safety even when facts didn’t support that claim.

    That tone, the report’s authors argue, helped turn a non-violent protest into a conflict that included at least 47 arrests, and it was set by Gillman.

    “Is this the kind of leadership UCI needs or deserves at this fraught moment?”

    Related links

    Read UCI student protester demands and administration responses for yourself
    UC Irvine leaders defend response to student protests in answers to Academic Senate
    47 arrested in UCI protest, encampment crackdown; Chancellor says ‘I’m brokenhearted’
    Students take protest to UCI chancellor’s home: ‘No rest until UCI divest’
    Crisis in Gaza revives student activism that some considered long gone

    That question from the Irvine Faculty Association could become a talking point on Friday, May 31, when the broader Academic Senate — which includes all tenured and tenure-track professors — meets to discuss UCI’s response to the protests. Any move to formally rebuke Gillman would have to be initiated by the Academic Senate, and it’s unclear if that will happen. The Academic Senate is not affiliated with the Irvine Faculty Association, though some professors do belong to both groups.

    University officials declined to comment on details of the report or the recommendation that Gillman face discipline.

    Earlier this month, Gillman and the school’s Executive Vice Chancellor Hal Stern answered a battery of questions posed by the Academic Senate about the administration’s handling of the protests. Those answers, too, will be part of the debate on Friday.

    In their responses, Gillman and Stern told the Academic Senate that they believe their decisions were warranted and boosted safety for most people at the school. But they also acknowledged that UCI, in official social media communications known as ZotALERTs, overstated the level of violence from student protesters during the early moments of the May 15 conflict.

    In one alert, issued by UCI communications, the protest was described as “violent,” a word later replaced with “civil unrest.” To date, none of the people arrested on May 15 have been charged with any crimes of violence, though such charges still could be filed.

    Another alert described an “occupation” of the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall as involving hundreds of students — an event that Gillman and Stern acknowledged also was overstated.

    In its new report, the Irvine Faculty Association said the occupation involved just five students who took over a single classroom, and the students waited to do that until class was no longer in session. Their takeover, of that room, lasted for about 20 minutes, according to the report.

    “(B)y the time the campus and media were claiming that ‘hundreds’ were inside the building, the building had been empty for approximately two hours,” the report said.

    Such overstatements, the report argued, were consistently put forth by Gillman, starting in late April, when protesters started sleeping in tents outside the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall. Use of terms such as “growing tension,” and statements made by UCI about the protesters’ shifting demands, created a climate that favored conflict over discussion, according to the report.

    On May 15, that led to more than 200 police and deputies from at least 20 different police agencies being on the ground at UCI, some using riot-suppression tactics to disperse the crowd. Those tactics, according to the report, were not warranted.

    “Despite claims that the protesters had demonstrated a ‘readiness to use violence,’ video evidence shows protesters using classic nonviolent civil disobedience tactics, both in defending the encampment and when being arrested,” the report said.

    The report also made several claims about how protesters were handled by police, including:

    • A photo shows a police officer pointing a tear gas gun at the head of students standing just a few feet away.

    • Students and others were handled violently by police and injured as a result of those encounters.

    • Muslim women were forced to remove their hijabs.

    • Students and faculty were held for hours without access to bathrooms or medical treatment.

    • Some students and faculty were strip-searched while in custody.

    • Students and others were subjected to racist, sexist and threatening language.

    Critically, the report claims, Gillman and Stern omitted these allegations in their response to the Academic Senate.

    “The Chancellor’s narrative and what is deliberately left out of his narrative presents a description of the events leading up to and during May 15 that is completely at odds with reality.”

    That lack of candor, the Irvine Faculty Association said, reflects “the general tenor of irresponsibility and the lack of regard for students, faculty and staff.”

    One issue that’s still unclear is the chancellor’s role in directing police response to events on campus.

    In theory, police response is relegated to law enforcement officials who base their actions on behavior they observe that might be criminal or pose a threat to public safety. But the Irvine Faculty Association Report suggests that Gillman “made the call” that led to multiple police agencies deployed on campus.

    Gillman and Stern, in their response to the Academic Senate, said the use of riot gear was “determined by established protocols,” and not a decision made by the administration or UCI’s police force. Campus police officials have said previously that they made the request for extra help from other departments.

    Annie McClanahan, associate professor of English at UCI and chair of the Irvine Faculty Association, suggested it might not matter.

    She said a 2012 document (Robinson/Edley), written by University of California officials following a wave of sometimes violent encounters at that time, sets out rules that generally frown on the type of response seen at UCI on May 15 and in the two weeks leading up to that event.

    “In fact, we don’t know who specifically made the call to allow outside police forces — that is just one of the questions posed by the Academic Senate but unanswered in the 70-page document they received from the Chancellor’s office,” McClanahan wrote, via email.

    “But whether the Chancellor acknowledges it or not, Robinson-Edley makes clear who is responsible in the event of failures of leadership leading to police escalation: ‘Responsibility for the response to civil disobedience during demonstration — including for any response that might be taken by the campus police department — rests with the Chancellor.’”

    ​ Orange County Register