While students from the School of Social Sciences walked across the Bren Events Center stage Friday afternoon to celebrate commencement, approximately 170 faculty members in the UCI Academic Senate met online, many of them to call on the administration to drop disciplinary charges against students involved with May’s Palestinian solidarity encampment.

The academic senate, a voting body that represents faculty members, has already called for an independent investigation into the administration’s crackdown on a protest at the on-campus pro-Palestinian encampment on May 15 that led to law enforcement from over 20 local agencies making nearly four dozen arrests and the encampment being cleared. On Friday, the senate explicitly asked UCI to lift the punishments levied on students allegedly involved with the encampment until investigations into the students’ conduct are completed.

In early May, UCI issued interim suspensions to several students involved with the encampment. Critics of the interim suspensions say UCI has historically reserved them for students posing an imminent threat to the safety of others — something, they say, these students did not do.

According to two faculty members present at the June 14 meeting, the senate passed three motions:

• A request for UCI administration to convene an independent investigation of any suspensions or other actions imposed on students for protest activities related to the encampment, including counter-protests, to ensure that proper policies and due process are being followed.

• A request for activities and outcomes of such an investigation to be transparent and open to all UCI faculty, students and staff.

• A request for the administration to consider lifting all sanctions on students allegedly involved with the encampment.

These motions come a week after the senate assembly voted to call on University of California system’s President Michael Drake for an independent investigation into the administration’s response of a protest at the on-campus Palestinian solidarity encampment on May 15.

UCI spokesperson Mike Uhlenkamp declined to comment Friday afternoon, saying the university would wait until the senate’s official request is sent to the administration, a process that may take a few days.

Students’ interim suspensions have been called “cruel and unusual punishment,” said Professor Mike Yassa, the associate dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the School of Biological Sciences and member of the faculty senate. The graduate student government called them a “gross abuse of power” by the administration. And, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed “serious concerns” about the application of the suspensions in an email to Gillman in late May.

Yassa said students given the suspensions have been punished already by “essentially getting ejected from campus, including campus housing.” Some, he said, are unable to graduate. Disciplinary hearings for those students are ongoing, said Yassa.

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“Many of the allegations levied are extremely vague and left undefined,” said associate professor of English Annie McClanahan, a member of the faculty senate.

The allegations include violations of policies related to disruption, disorderly conduct, overnight camping, disturbance of peace, failure to comply and amplified sound — violations, McClanahan and others argue wouldn’t add up to posing an imminent threat to the safety of others without additional proof of evidence against the students.

Interim suspensions mean students can be barred from going to class or engaging in other school activities, including losing access to university housing. Those students can, however, meet with school officials to challenge their punishment.

UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Hal Stern previously said students who sought to meet with school officials saw their suspensions “modified.”

Yassa said many faculty members who spoke during Friday’s meeting said they feel that the suspended students are being treated as if they are “guilty until proven innocent.”

“The hope is the motion would take an immediate effect and the administration would lift the punishment immediately until the investigation is completed,” Yassa said. “The idea is that the burden of proof is on the student conduct process.”

Faculty, he said, are making “impassioned pleas to do the right thing by the students and give them due process.”

The academic senate has not posted when it will meet next.