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UCLA faculty reject censure and no confidence resolutions against chancellor after attack on pro-Palestinian encampment

<i>Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource</i><br/>UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block at the UCLA Semel Institute's
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource
UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block at the UCLA Semel Institute's "Open Mind Gala" in Beverly Hills

By Dalia Faheid and Paradise Afshar, CNN

(CNN) — The UCLA Academic Senate rejected censuring and making a no confidence statement against university Chancellor Gene Block amid mounting criticism over his handling of a campus pro-Palestinian encampment that was violently attacked by counterprotesters.

Faculty members were divided Thursday while mulling whether “Chancellor Block failed to ensure the safety of our students and grievously mishandled the events.”

On the motion to censure Block, 50% of votes cast were in favor. The motion of no confidence in Block garnered 43% of votes in favor.

After the vote, University of California President Michael V. Drake said in a statement: “These are extraordinarily complex and unprecedented times for American universities. I appreciate Chancellor Block’s dedication and commitment to the University during these difficult times. We will continue to provide our chancellors with the support and resources they need to respond to these ever-evolving situations.”

Andrea M. Kasko, who serves as the chair of the Academic Senate, called on colleagues to “try to find common ground” in a statement issued following the votes.

“As we all process the results of the votes by the Legislative Assembly on May 16, 2024, on the resolutions of no confidence and censure of the Chancellor, it is clear that we are not united in how we view the major events of the past weeks and the campus response to them,” Kasko said.

CNN has reached out to Block and UCLA for comment.

As part of a movement that swept university campuses throughout the nation, pro-Palestinian protesters set up an encampment at UCLA in an effort to raise awareness about the mass deaths and destruction in Gaza, and calling for the university to divest from any financial ties with Israel.

On April 30, law enforcement stood by for hours as counterprotesters attacked the pro-Palestinian encampment, which erupted into the worst violence stemming from the ongoing college protests around the country over Israel’s war in Gaza.

More than 150 students “were assaulted with pepper spray and bear mace,” and at least 25 protesters ended up being transported to local emergency rooms, according to the encampment’s organizers.

While a criminal investigation is still underway into the assaults, a CNN review of footage, social media posts, and interviews found that some of the most dramatic attacks caught on camera that night were committed by people outside UCLA – not the university students and faculty who were eventually arrested.

After the violence and as the university faced criticism, Block announced UCLA’s security operations would change. He said it is clear that “urgent changes are needed in how we administer safety operations” in order to best protect the school community.

The university also said it is investigating “a group of instigators” who attacked the encampment, according to a statement from Block.

“Holding the instigators of this attack accountable and enhancing our campus safety operations are both critical. Our community members can only learn, work and thrive in an environment where they feel secure,” Block said in the May 6 statement.

Other universities and their leaders have faced backlash over their response to campus protests as well. This week, arts and sciences faculty at Columbia University passed a vote of no confidence in the school’s president, Minouche Shafik, who has been under intense scrutiny for her handling of campus protests and her congressional testimony on the subject.

Last week, the University of Southern California’s faculty senate voted 21-7 to censure USC President Carol Folt and Provost Andrew Guzman over the removal of a protest encampment from campus and the use of Los Angeles police to arrest protesters, among other issues.

Faculty and staff express disapproval

Hundreds of University of California faculty and staff signed a letter addressed to Block “decrying the horrific violence perpetrated against our students on April 30, and calling on him to fully protect our students’ safety and security, and to honor their first amendment rights to free speech.”

Days later, more than 900 University of California faculty and staff signed a letter demanding Block’s resignation following the arrests at the campus.

“Following the violent and aggressive police sweep of the Palestine Solidarity Encampment on May 2, 2024, resulting in more than 200 students, faculty, and staff arrested while peacefully protesting, it has become obvious that Chancellor Block has failed our university,” the letter said.

The United Auto Workers 4811, which represents 48,000 University of California academic workers, has authorized a strike “if circumstances justify,” citing “numerous, egregious unfair labor practices committed” during on-campus protests. Specifically, the union mentioned the handling of protests on April 30 and May 1 at UCLA.

“At the heart of this is our right to free speech and peaceful protest,” said Rafael Jaime, a graduate worker in the English department and president of UAW 4811. “If members of the academic community are maced and beaten down for peacefully demonstrating on this issue, our ability to speak up on all issues is threatened.”

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Blake Ellis, Melanie Hicken, Allison Gordon, Yahya Abou-Ghazala, Em Steck, Daniel Medina, Kyung Lah, Anna-Maja Rappard, Emma Tucker, Cindy Von Quednow and Taylor Romine contributed to this report.

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