University officials have found "reasonable cause" to believe that four students who mounted the stage during an Oct. 4 speech by Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist were in violation of the Rules of University Conduct, according to an e-mail sent to the protestors.
The message is signed by Rules Administrator Stephen Rittenberg, stated that the recipients' conduct "may have violated some or all of the sections" of the Rules cited in the email, which include prohibitions against causing physical injury, inciting violence, and disrupting a University event through a protest or demonstration.
"Some of these sections refer to serious violations and could lead to your suspension or dismissal from the University if you are charged and subsequently found guilty," the e-mail reads. [View the full text of the e-mail.]
Individual copies were sent to Martin Lopez and Ryan Fukumori, both CC' 09, and Karina Garcia and Cosette Olivio, both CC'07. The e-mails differ only in the time at which each recipient was asked to meet with officials, which sources say the students did on Monday.
All four recipients declined to comment on the meetings and the e-mail. A University spokesman also declined to comment on the situation, citing Columbia's ongoing investigation.
The meetings came twelve days after Gilchrist's speech, held in Roone Arledge Auditorium at the invitation of the Columbia University College Republicans, came to a sudden halt when about a dozen protestors climbed onto the stage. The demonstrators, who oppose Gilchrist's hard-line stance on immigration policy and the Minutemen's controversial tactics in border enforcement, unfurled a pair of protest banners, sending the audience into an uproar.
But the demonstration quickly devolved into a scuffle, during which Minutemen Chaplain Marvin Stewart said he was assaulted by protestors, and during which a Gilchrist supporter appears to have kicked Lopez in the head, based on videos taken of the event. Gilchrist supporters and opponents both deny responsibility for having initiated the violence.
The Rules of University Conduct are the highest level of disciplinary proceedings at Columbia, governing the conduct of all University members at protests, picketing, and other types of rallies on Columbia property.
"These rules are designed to protect the rights of free expression through peaceful demonstration while at the same time ensuring the proper functioning of the University and the protection of rights of those who may be affected by such demonstrations," the foreword to the Rules reads.
Each offense laid down by the Rules is designated as either simple or serious. Individuals found guilty of a simple violation may receive either a disciplinary warning or a censure. Those found guilty of a serious violation or repeated simple violations are met with censure, suspension, or, in rare cases, dismissal from Columbia.
In the e-mail, Rittenberg named nine violations that the protesters could be charged with, four of which are simple, five of which are serious. [View the pertinent provisions.]
The five serious violations named are: causing or clearly attempting to cause physical injury, using words in a situation of "clear and present danger" to provoke violence, interfering with the use of a University facility for an extended period, rendering impossible the continuation of a University function, and aiding or abetting one or more persons in the commission of a serious violation.
The e-mail stated that if any of the students are ultimately charged with one or more of these serious violations, they may choose to have them reviewed under the procedures set down by the Rules. These include an open hearing and presentation of evidence before a hearing officer and, if the officer's decision is appealed, a possible audience before the University Judicial Board.
But the four simple violations and-at the student's discretion-all of the serious violations may be processed through Dean's Discipline, a lesser procedure handled by the student's individual school.
The simple violations cited in the message are: placing another in danger of bodily harm, briefly interfering with the use of a University facility, briefly interrupting a University function, and aiding or abetting one or more persons in the commission of a simple violation.
Rittenberg also noted in the e-mail that each student may "discuss an informal resolution of the complaint. Such a resolution would involve your [the student's] acknowledging that you violated the Rules of University Conduct."
It is not known whether any members of the College Republicans or other Gilchrist supporters are under active investigation by the University.
In a statement on Thursday, University President Lee Bollinger said, "We are also investigating the actions of particular individuals who are not members of the Columbia community and will inform those whom we find to have committed violent or disruptive acts last Wednesday that they will not be allowed on the campus again."