UCI Student Activists Face Conduct Charges

Approximately two dozen students filled the Student Life and Leadership office this morning for a peaceful sit-in supporting Lisa Lei and Jordan Brocious as they met with Mario Garibay, a student conduct officer.

Both Lei and Brocious received separate student conduct charges in early February following their involvement with campus activism. Lei, a fifth-year undergraduate student and organizing intern for AFSCME 3299, faces three student conduct charges while Brocious, a fifth-year graduate student, faces two charges.

Phuc Pham | New University

Phuc Pham | New University

A Change.org petition to stop the suppression of student activism was launched Monday night. Garnering almost 1,800 supporters and addressed to UC President Janet Napolitano, Vice Chancellor Student Affairs Thomas Parham and the UCI Office of Student Conduct, the petition also calls for the dropping of the charges against Lei and Brocious.

“This is the latest in a series of intimidation and retaliation against student activists at UC Irvine that amounts to a campaign that silences dissent on campus,” reads the petition.

In the midst of facing student conduct charges, Lei and Brocious, as well as their supporters,  are questioning the involvement of undercover police in the monitoring of student activism during Napolitano’s visit late last October.

Leading up to the action, Brocious claims he talked to two students who told him they were graduate students working in Donald Bren Hall, but who were actually plainclothes officers. Brocious allegedly taped the locks of the doors leading into Donald Bren Hall so that student protesters would be able to enter the building after it was locked for President Napolitano’s visit late October last year. For this, he faces one charge of damage to university property.

Although police removed the tape and the students entered the building through another exit as someone exited, Brocious also faces a charge of unauthorized entry to university property.

Police surveillance is also a major concern for Lei, who found out from her charging document that police had been targeting her specifically due to her vocal involvement with labor organizing.

During an AFSCME 3299 strike vote at Gottschalk Medical Plaza on Oct. 30 last year, Lei allegedly failed to comply with requests and directives from UCIPD and Gottschalk staff asking her to leave.  Following her refusal to leave, she said that police followed her up to the workers’ break room.

“I never thought that I would be followed by the police for performing my duties as an intern. I don’t think they have the rights to follow an AFSCME 3299 employee but because I am a student activist, they think it is fair to follow me around and intimidate me,” Lei said.

According to Jorge Serrato, an AFSCME 3299 organizer, the following and intimidation of union employees and interns violates policies set forth by both the University of California and the California Public Employee Relations Board that grant protections for employees to organize freely.

Lei claimed the police report also incorrectly profiled her as a member of the Radical Student Union, a group that she does not belong to and that has not been active for several years.

“This clearly shows how UCIPD falsely incriminates student leaders on campus,” Lei said.

For her involvement in AFSCME 3299 strike activity on November 20, Lei faces charges of pushing and resisting a UCIPD officer. The police allege that Lei pushed a UCIPD officer on their right shoulder with her open right hand.

Lei denies that she touched the officer.

During his conduct meeting, Brocious and his representatives questioned the credibility of a police report that keeps the names of the accusing officers anonymous. Garibay said that he will consider the use of undercover cops who lied about their identities in the adjudication of Brocious’s case.

When asked by Garibay if he had actually placed tape on the doors, Brocious maintained innocence.

Garibay declined to comment on possible sanctions that Lei and Brocious will face if they are found guilty of their charges.