A week after the protest at Irvine Meadows West and the subsequent arrests of nine student protesters on March 30, residents of IMW received an e-mail from UCI. On April 7, the Office of Student Judicial Affairs sent e-mails to 20 students that stated that the recipient must respond to the office to discuss matters and warned of penalties for noncompliance.
The e-mail consisted of two allegations in regards to the obstruction of UCI business and failure to obey authority. The e-mail also threatened that if students did not respond to the office, their transcripts would be placed on hold and they would be barred from using UCI facilities.
This came as a shock to many students because not only did the arrested individuals receive the letter, but other students who had participated in the protest but complied with police orders to disperse also received the same letters from UCI.
IMW resident Matthew Cardinale, a sociology graduate student, was shocked when he received the e-mail.
‘E-mail? People do not get all their e-mails. The e-mail sent gave seven business days for recipients to respond,’ Cardinale said. ‘If not, transcripts would be held, and students can’t use UCI facilities. They are going to hold a student’s whole future in e-mail. This is ridiculous.’
Although the e-mail was a surprise itself, a second letter in their mailboxes once again shocked students. The second letter expressed the same issues as in the e-mail but was slightly modified with the addition of a third charge. Students were left confused by the two letters demanding compliance.
Garret Asay, economics graduate student and co-chair of the Homeowners’ Association at IMW, received the two letters and found them surprising and unexpected.
‘The second letter had different, additional charges which I found slightly strange,’ Asay said. ‘I personally do not agree with how the university handled the situation with sending the letters to bystanders and other students.’
When asked why these two letters were sent, William Zeller, assistant vice chancellor of student housing, explained that the letters were to ‘offer guidance on our conduct system and the initial stages of our conduct system when a report comes to the university, as a violation of university policy has occurred.’
In addition, Zeller explained that it is a university policy for students to meet with administrators after an incident like the one that occurred on March 30, where nine of the IMW residents were arrested for failure to disperse after protesting and refusing to leave the entrance to their community.
‘It is for our student conduct to contact with the students who have allegedly violated university policy to come in and meet the hearing officer, in somewhat of a fact-finding meeting, allow the students to give their understanding of the charges that have been levied and also to ask questions and find out what the next step will be to the conduct proceeding,’ Zeller said.
Cardinale expressed concern that the course of action that the university has taken violates certain civil rights.
Zeller refuted these concerns.
‘Protesting in and of it itself is not a violation,’ Zeller said.
Robert Ameele, executive director of undergraduate student housing, affirmed that this is not a case of restriction of free speech.
‘The general issue of the day was not an issue of people protesting