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UCI Divest group prompts walkout over treatment, suspensions in encampment protest last week

Hanna Kang and Annika Bahnsen, The Orange County Register on

Published in News & Features

A couple hundred people gathered at UC Irvine this afternoon, May 22, following the UCI Divest Coalition’s call for a walkout in response to suspensions the group said those arrested in last week’s encampment protest have received.

Leaders of the walkout led the large group that had gathered in Aldrich Park around 12:30 p.m. in a procession back to the location of the more than two-week Gaza Solidarity Encampment that had formed in a quad in front of UC Irvine’s Physical Sciences Lecture Hall. The encampment was broken up by police on May 15 who were responding to a protest.

“They are unable to go to class and access on-campus housing despite still paying rent and tuition,” the UCI Divest Coalition posted on social media Tuesday evening calling for the walkout. “Grad students are still mandated to teach remotely despite being banned from classroom and housing.”

University spokesperson Tom Vasich would not confirm the suspensions, saying he cannot discuss student records, including ones regarding discipline, because they are protected by federal law. UCI police reported 47 people – 26 students, two staff and 19 people who were not affiliated with the university – were arrested May 15 during the protest for suspicion of trespassing or failing to disperse when ordered by police.

Kevan Antonio Aguilar, a professor in UCI’s history department and a vice-chair of the Irvine Faculty Association, said some faculty, students and members of the community are looking into potentially starting an open investigation into the school. He said he had also heard of students being suspended.

“There are really strong discrepancies as to when things were happening and what was the actual situation,” he said. “It seems that they used the takeover of the lecture hall as motivation, but there’s no evidence to the claims that there was any physical altercation.”

The Irvine Faculty Association held a town hall on Sunday to discuss best ways to support students and colleagues who were arrested, said Aguilar, and while there are no specific plans for now, “there’s a lot of faculty who plan to withhold their labor in solidarity with the students specifically because of what happened on May 15.”


The Academic Senate is also set to meet with faculty to discuss the administration’s response to the encampment and the events of May 15, said Daniel Hirschberg, parliamentarian of the Academic Senate. While a date isn’t set, he said the meeting could tentatively happen next week.

There has been no visible police or security presence this afternoon during the walkout, which had broken up just before 3 p.m. Leaders of the encampment retold the timeline of last week’s protest, urging the UC system to divest in Israel and calling for UCI Chancellor Howard Gilman to resign from his duties at the school.

Participants also chanted and beat drums and used chalk to write messages to the university administration and in support of Palestinians.

Abri Magdaleno, a senior English major at UCI, said students are encouraged in their studies to be engaged and hearing students face suspension is a “shame.”

“In all of my classes at UCI, students are taught to stand for something greater to make the world a better place,” Magdaleno said. “UCI administration’s integrity has proven itself to be a consistent disappointment to both Anteaters and faculty in the time I have attended. Students are being held to higher standards of research and empathy than the authorities making these calls.”


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