The evening before graduate teaching and research assistants at UC Irvine joined other UC campuses in a strike on Wednesday, elected representatives from the university’s graduate and professional schools passed a vote of no confidence in UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman.

The vote, taken Tuesday night, is a symbolic action that graduate students said they took as a way to signal their opinion about Gillman to the Academic Senate.

Members of the Academic Senate, made up of tenured and tenure-track professors, are also considering a no-confidence vote, among other possible responses, to Gillman’s management of on-campus pro-Palestinian protests. The Academic Senate met this week, for a second time, to discuss the issue.

Leaders of the Associated Graduate Students Council, an elected council with 30 active voting members, said the group reserves no-confidence votes for what it considers to be serious issues and has not taken such a vote in anyone in at least 15 years — as far back as their records show.

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“This is an unprecedented situation,” Zoë Miller-Vadem, president of the council, said.

The AGS Council voted 18.5 to 0 in favor of the resolution for the vote of no confidence, with one member abstaining. Half votes occur when a member assigns a proxy to vote on their behalf; proxies are given one-half of a vote.

UCI spokesperson Mike Uhlenkamp pointed to the chancellor’s past responses to questions posed by the Academic Senate and declined to comment further Thursday evening. “The university stands by those responses,” he said.

The council’s vote reflects disaffection with the university’s response to recent on-campus pro-Palestinian protests. Some in the group have said the university, by seeking a strong police response, compromised students’ safety and violated constitutional rights to free speech and peaceful assembly.

In late April, when students set up an encampment on school property as a way to raise awareness about Israel’s military response to Palestinians living in Gaza and to call for the university to divest its endowment from assets linked to Israel, UCI administrators told the students that they were violating school policy. But officials didn’t move to dismantle the tents and other make-shift structures until the afternoon of May 15 after a small group of demonstrators barricaded themselves inside the nearby Physical Sciences Lecture Hall and hung banners from its balcony.

The conflict that ensued over the next few hours, involving at least 20 police agencies and hundreds of protesters, led to 47 arrests. Two of the people arrested — Mark Gradoni and Elliot Yu — are graduate student employees who helped draft the no-confidence vote against Gillman.

“We don’t really control the UC’s media on what has happened on May 15 and in the weeks following, so this vote is one of our only kind of formal avenues for doing so,” Yu said.

“This vote is really important to signal to both the university and our faculty colleagues in the Academic Senate to show that this is how graduate students are feeling so that it’s a matter of record and a way that we can hold Gillman accountable,” he added.

In the resolution, the AGS Council said Gillman authorized the May 15 police response and put students in danger by doing so.

“AGS finds it unacceptable for a Chancellor to authorize actions that put students in danger of severe physical harm despite those students posing no imminent risk of physical harm to other members of the university community,” the resolution reads.

The AGS Council also said Gillman authorized interim suspensions to student protestors the week of May 6, and in doing so, exercised a “gross abuse of power.” They said interim suspensions have historically been reserved for students posing an imminent threat to the safety of others — a threat they said isn’t supported by evidence.

Miller-Vadem doesn’t anticipate a response from Gillman to the symbolic vote. However, she believes her group’s action might influence the Academic Senate as faculty consider their response to the university’s management of recent protests.

On Thursday afternoon, the Academic Senate met for the second time in a week to discuss just that.

Unlike the AGS meetings, which are open to the public, the Academic Senate argues its meetings are private and, as such, it has held those meetings away from public or media scrutiny. A source privy to last week’s meeting said at least some faculty members raised the idea of calling for either a censure or a vote of no confidence against Gillman, though no action was taken.

Whereas the Academic Senate submitted questions to and received answers from Gillman regarding his decision-making around the protests, Yu said the AGS drafted and voted on its resolution without reaching out to Gillman.

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UCI educator group wants a no-confidence vote for Chancellor Howard Gillman

The resolution included some unproven allegations against Gillman based on hearsay, such as one claim that “a graduate student who was in the (Orange County) Sheriff’s Office the morning of April 29 overheard a sheriff’s deputy tell another sheriff’s deputy that “[UCI] Chancellor [Howard] Gillman said ‘do whatever you want’” about the encampment.”

“Hearsay is a complicated issue because if a colleague of mine tells me that they’ve overheard something of this magnitude, the thing that I risk by not believing them is my safety,” Yu said in explaining why that clause was added.

“Hearsay is an important way for us to think about what our colleagues are listening to, what they’re saying, and what avenues we might need to look out for to protect our safety,” Yu added.

“The best case scenario is that it’s wrong, and the sheriff’s actions were not motivated by this. The worst case scenario is we have to be concerned that the administration is being hostile on purpose.”

Any concerns about the resolution’s wording weren’t reflected in the AGS’ final tally, which included no votes defending Gillman.

“We don’t feel that the chancellor is doing his job,” Yu said.

“We feel that he’s taking advantage of his resources and punishing graduate students who are also dually both students and employees of the university.”