A member of the Academic Senate accused President Mark Rocha of “unprofessional, dismissive, degrading and sexist” behavior during Wednesday’s Associated Students meeting after he allegedly called her “crazy” in an email.
Melissa Michelson, the Academic Senate’s ad hoc town hall committee chair, read a speech at the Associated Students meeting and said she was subjected to intimidation and rude remarks by General Council Gail Cooper and inappropriate words from Rocha in a recent email exchange.
Michaelson sent an email last Tuesday to the Board of Trustees and Academic Senate and insisted the board had not been holding Rocha accountable for not holding open Committee on Academic and Professional Matters meetings.
Cooper emailed Michelson that her comments were “misplaced” and suggested that she turn her energies to more productive exchanges, telling her to “cease your efforts to be critical.”
Michelson responded to Cooper and stated that bullying from a lawyer has no place in the work place. Cooper responded that she was happy her explanation was clear and understandable to her, but she could not say the same for Michelson’s attempts at deductive reasoning with regards the Senate’s boycott of CAPM.
In between the two emails sent by Cooper, Michelson received an email from Rocha reading: “Yikes, she is crazy.” Michelson believes the email reached her in error.
“It was patronizing, unprofessional, dismissive, degrading and sexist,” Michelson said.
Michelson said that nobody deserves to be dismissed with degrading language, especially through publicly funded communication channels. Michelson stated that a male in such a high position referring to any female in any such a manner is, “inherently and structurally sexist” and that his comment, no matter how innocuous, carries the weight of males in power who dismiss the work of women. In the meantime, she has asked for an apology and has not gotten one.
Sarah Belknap, the Associated Students vice president of sustainability, spoke about the environment of intimidation on campus and how she has been told time and again during Board of Trustees meetings that making a public comment that went over five minutes was rude and disrespectful, which she found ironic.
“There is a huge double standard here in the use of politeness on campus… On this campus, we have politeness that has been weaponized,” Belknap said.
Belknap said that there is no amount of politeness from a faculty member or students that seem to be acceptable when criticizing the administration, regardless of tone or temperament.
She asked that the executive board request a formal apology on Michelson’s behalf, as they are students get hurt when their caught in the middle of conflict between faculty and administration.
Student Trustee Simon Fraser thought the language in the email by Rocha was clearly not meant for her. That may have made matters worse, he said, as it was evidence of internal discourse that was taking place that should not be happening. He encouraged her attempt to ask for a public records act request, as it is important to see what kind of communication was taking place on campus.
“Civility on campus has to go both ways… from every group to every group,” he said.
Fraser said that this incident serves as a good reminder that we all “temper our discourse.” He said he formally put in a request to the Board of Trustees to respond to the comment and would report it to the other members.