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Sonoma State University President Mike Lee has left his role mere days after striking a controversial deal with pro-Palestinian protesters on campus that brought a rebuke from California State University System leaders, who accused Lee of “insubordination” and placed him on administrative leave.

Now he is retiring for the second time after a lengthy career in the Cal State system. Lee came out of retirement in 2022 to replace former Sonoma State President Judy Sakaki, who resigned amid controversy related to mishandling a sexual harassment scandal involving her husband.

“President Ming-Tung (Mike) Lee has informed me of his decision to retire from his role at Sonoma State University. I thank President Lee for his years of service to the California State University—starting at California State University, Sacramento—and to higher education over all. I wish him and his family well,” California State Chancellor Mildred García said in a Friday statement. “I will continue to work with Acting President Nathan Evans and our Board of Trustees leadership during this transitional period. Additional information will be forthcoming.”​

While presidents across the U.S. have struck deals with pro-Palestinian protesters who have called for disclosure of how endowment funds are invested and divestment from Israel and companies profiting off of the war between Israel and Hamas, the agreement with protesters at Sonoma State featured rare and controversial concessions by Lee. Critics of the deal took issue with Lee’s agreement to an academic boycott of Israel and faculty expressed concerns about student participation in curricular development, which is the purview of the professoriate.

It remains unclear whether the deals struck with protesters will be upheld. But a system spokesperson noted by email that the commitments “will be reviewed in the near future.”