Sonoma State president resigns amid sexual harassment scandal


Sonoma State University President Judy K. Sakaki. photo by William Lee

Sonoma State University President Judy K. Sakaki. photo by William Lee

Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki announced June 7 that she’s resigning from the presidency effectively July 31.

Her resignation follows faculty criticism for how she handled sexual harassment allegations by a former university administrator against her husband, Patrick McCallum.

“Serving as Sonoma State President has truly been an honor. After thoughtful reflection and discussions with my family, I made the decision to step away as president of this wonderful campus,” Sakaki said, in a statement. “I care deeply about Sonoma State and believe this choice will allow the campus community to move forward in a timely manner. I am incredibly grateful to the entire SSU and the North Bay communities for the opportunity to serve during such a challenging and transformative time at Sonoma State.”

Sakaki, who was the first Japanese American woman to serve as a university president, has been under fire following allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation lodged against her.

Last month, state lawmakers urged her to step down following a vote of no confidence by the university’s faculty. She’s been criticized for how she handled sexual harassment allegations made against her husband, who was a lobbyist for the state’s Fire Victims Trust. In April, Sakaki announced she and McCallum had separated.

Lisa Vollendorf, the campus’s former provost, was paid $600,000 earlier this year to settle a claim she filed alleging that she had been sexually harassed by McCallum. Although not a university employee, McCallum was an “official university volunteer,” the Los Angeles Times reported, accompanying his wife at official functions.

The university’s faculty and staff also argued that Sakaki had failed to address declining enrollment, a budget crisis and low morale among students and employees across Sonoma State.

Prior to her tenure at Sonoma State, Sakaki spent more than 40 years in various administrative positions across the California State University system and in the University of California system. In 2017, Sakaki was named President of the Year by the California State Student Association. She also was a founding board member of the Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education.

“Throughout her career in higher education, President Sakaki has demonstrated a steadfast passion for the transformative power of a college degree,” said Cal State interim Chancellor Jolene Koester. “We are grateful for her many years of service in higher learning including at Sonoma State and Fresno State.”

An interim president is expected to be announced soon.

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