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UCSD ID Documentation: Discrimination? Students and Administrators Divided

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSD chapter.

This article was potentially slated for investigation and publication at the UCSD Guardian, but the news cycle ended before final interviews and comments were received. Special thanks to the administrators and students who replied to requests for comments. TW: Alleged Racial Profiling, Harassment, and Themes of Police Violence or Police Brutality

The University of California San Diego has a longstanding policy of showing ID to enter Giesel library “Afterhours,” which is available for students starting from 10:00 p.m. and ending at 7:30 a.m., from Sunday through Friday.

The website landing page states the policy as: “Valid UC San Diego ID card required during overnight hours. On request, users must show valid UC San Diego-issued ID card. Users without valid UC San Diego-issued ID card must leave the building until regular library hours resume.”

Yet during the Pro-Palestine encampment from May 1 to May 6, 2024, Giesel security allegedly physically removed IDs off of students’ persons, and grabbed them as soon as the students produced ID. Then, they photographed and documented both sides of their ID’s (including sensitive PID information) without cause, and without first informing students so they could consent. Several students expressed concern that they had been profiled after being stopped.

When I reached out to Giesel Library and UCSD for comment to find out where the justification for these actions came from, Nikki Kolupailo, Communications & Engagement Director, responded and referred me to the overnight hours policy.

She also commented that: “Between May 1 and May 6, 2024, as an additional safety measure at the direction of campus administration, the Library recorded who entered the Library during Overnight Study hours in case of an emergency situation. We followed university policy regarding how to collect this data and provided it to campus per their request.

The campus directive was to record the name of every individual upon entry to Geisel’s Overnight Study space as an additional safety measure and to provide campus with this information at the end of Overnight hours. The Library complied and did not use the information collected for any purpose other than providing it to campus. Given the speed at which the situation was evolving, signage was not posted notifying users of this temporary additional step. However, to my knowledge, our staff checking IDs verbally communicated about the policy change and the rationale behind it as IDs were being checked.”

She went on to state, “In my earlier reply, I noted that ‘it is the Library’s normal practice to check UC San Diego-issued ID cards of everyone entering Geisel Library’s Overnight Study space.’ This policy was also applied between May 1 and 6 and direction was given to collect all names without selectively gathering information. The Library received two official complaints regarding discrimination and we immediately forwarded those to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD) in accordance with UC policy.”

One verified student source was stopped by security despite being unaffilated with the encampment. The student spoke with me and requested to remain anonymous, out of fear of retaliation. They detail their experience being stopped and how the aftermath of the event left them feeling racially profiled, which has negatively affected their mental health.

A: “It was about 9:15 pm, Friday two weeks ago. I was coming down the stairs to the Geisel entrance from where the Dr. Seuss statue is, and then I noticed that the front entrance to the library was closed.

And then I heard a whistle, so I looked to my right, and there was a security guard. And next to the security guard, there was a UCPD officer, but that didn’t look too suspicious to me because it was later at night. The library wasn’t closed yet though. That’s really important to this story. So the library is still open access. The library closes at 10pm.

I thought that there’s encampments, [so] they’re just here for safety. That’s cool. I walk up to him. I’m like “Hey.” And he’s like “Hey. Can you show me your ID?” And I thought “All right, that’s fine. I just need to get into Geisel. That’s fine” And there’s a cop right next to him too.

What am I gonna do? Like walk around? So, I ‘gave’ him my ID, and then as soon as [I took it out] he grabs my ID. He [had] said “Can I see your ID?’ — So I showed him my ID and I put my arm out, just so he could get a better look. He grabbed it from my hand, whipped out his phone, and took a photo of both sides. And I was shocked, because he did this in a second and a half, tops. And I was shocked.”

RR: “You were still holding it. It was still in your possession and he took it out of your hand without asking, right.” 

A: “He took it out of my hand. He did not— He never asked for my ID. [To take or hand over] He never asked.”

RR: “And he never said anything about documenting it before taking it.”

A: “No. He said ‘Can I see your ID?’ verbatim. That’s verbatim. And there was a cop two steps to his right. I’m not here to act improper.”

A: “So, while that whole endeavor was going on, I was shocked. In the corner of my right eye, I noticed this Asian kid just walk straight past me. He was an Asian kid, he just walked straight past me (…) while I was with the security guard.

The cop was looking at me. I asked him ‘Do you guys do this for everyone?’ He’s like ‘Yeah.’ And then I just saw an Asian dude walk by. But I didn’t ask him ‘So why didn’t you stop him?’ I just went ‘All right. Can I have my ID back?’ and he just handed me my ID back and said ‘Keep it moving.’ Keep it moving. Told me to keep it moving, the security guard. The cop never opened his mouth. But [I] still felt intimidated. That a cop was there. This was the first time I ever saw a UCPD officer and a UCSD security guard standing outside of Geisel before closing time, asking for IDs.”

According to the student, it appeared as though the UCPD officer was making sure the security guard was documenting the ID, raising questions as to law enforcement’s involvement. The student continued, saying:

A: “So, the guy that walked past me was Asian. He wasn’t stopped. And then I had some friends come meet me — they’re all Hispanic — come meet me. They arrived at Geisel around 9:45. None of them were stopped the way I was. So that was interesting. But then [a friend] put out a Reddit post about my experience and then we started getting back that people had similar experiences and there was a very common profiling case to be made there. They were all brown and black people that were stopped. They were not lighter skinned people.”

Returning to this comment on who was stopped and who was not, I asked how this experience made the student feel.

RR: Would you mind sharing how that made you feel as a student on campus?

A: “Yeah, now whenever I go on campus, I mask up and I make sure that no one can make out my identity if someone’s taking a photo there. I’m very paranoid to be on campus now. I don’t go on campus now unless I have lecture, a midterm, or a final exam. Those are my only ways I’m gonna get on campus now because I don’t feel safe, and I reported my case to the OPHD, two other people have reported it on my behalf, and the OHPD— this case — the first reporting of this documentation has been a week and a half old — and OHPD has still not responded. So now I’m operating under the assumption that OHPD is just a tool for the chancellor to sweep [incidents] under the rug. Cause no one’s reached back to me in 10 days. When I try calling, there’s no response. There’s no one on campus. There’s no support system on campus for students facing discrimination, even though they claim there is. It’s a complete systematic failure.

“There’s no support system on campus for students facing discrimination, even though they claim there is. It’s a complete systematic failure.”

– Anonymous Student Interview

The student also told me about two related cases of harassment they experienced that same weekend, incidents that occurred when Tritons For Israel hosted Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas. The student stopped to assist a family navigating campus near Target. The group was looking for directions and help to avoid the protest-related blockade and the student stopped to help them.

After giving the directions the student experienced a vitriolic reaction from the group who reportedly cussed the student out and screamed at them. A few minutes later the student was also accosted by counter-protesters.

A: “So I was walking into Target, and there was this family, [who were] lost. They didn’t want to go through the Palestinian counterprotest that was happening in the middle of Price Center. So I overheard them and I stopped. And I was like if you guys want to go around Price Center, you guys can just go to Geisel and make a right. The son was really nice about it. The son of this family — mom, dad, son, daughter — the son was like “oh, thank you.” But then the dad walked up to me and started cursing me out — I’m assuming cursing me out — in Hebrew. This was very angry Hebrew, and he got up in my face. And I just walked and got into Target. Just to avoid any beef.”

The student then spoke about counterprotesters who ran into them, and were jostling and yelling in their face. The student identified them as part of the same group involved in the alleged assault on Professor Gary Fields.

A: “I wasn’t even wearing any of the Palestinian stuff, I’m just brown. I was just being brown. And the second one was way worse. So, [others] probably told you about those Israeli dudes that were waving the flag in front of the Palestinian event organizer’s face, which [there are] videos of that.

[The] same people — I was walking back to my dorm — the same people got up in my face and started waving that flag in my face, and were like ‘Get that stupid mask off your face!’

And I just started speedwalking, cause I thought they were gonna start grabbing me. Because they got really aggressive. They didn’t reach out to me though, I wanted to make sure they didn’t reach out or try to assault me, but I just sensed it.” 

A: “My point is: if UCSD is so concerned about maintaining on campus safety, then how are you going to let agitators like this [in] that aren’t even affiliated with the school come onto campus. There needs to be a better system. I get that if you guys want to make these claims about why you took down the encampment for campus safety, then it should work both ways. It shouldn’t be hypocritical like this. Because UCSD is clearly showing bias against brown students. I don’t know if they’re showing bias for anyone, but they’re showing bias against brown students.”

At the time of writing, there is no resolution to the case submitted by this student.

Unfortunately, it seems that for some students, a lack of support and justice has broken trust in the university and affirmed the long-circulated belief that the university does not take student complaints seriously.

Other unsubstantiated reports relating to the ID stops have been posted on the UCSD Reddit, and these reports include similar behavior. In one case, a student alleged—in a reply that has since been deleted— that the security told her they took the photo because of “fake ID’s” in circulation, directly contradicting the official reasoning given by the library.

Other descriptions affirm that ID’s were physically yanked from hands and that students had no time to dissent or process what was happening.

These incidents are highly problematic as they seem to be applied outside of “overnight” hours and may be discriminatory since not every student was stopped.

UCSD does have another ID policy called PACAOS-40: Policy on Use of University Properties, but this is not what officials referenced in their justification of stopping students.

PACAOS policy details that: “All persons on University property are required to abide by University policies and campus regulations and shall identify themselves upon request to University officials acting in the performance of their duties. Violation of University policies or campus regulations may subject a person to possible legal penalties; if the person is a student, faculty member, or staff member of the University, that person may also be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with University policies and campus implementing regulations.”

Even so, the actions taken to ID students at Giesel and also reportedly ID those ambushed with an entirely locked-down campus after the encampment was dismantled do not seem to fall in the range of the broad terminology of officials “acting in performance of their duties,” especially with a new additive of documenting ID’s and photographing student records for an unknown purpose.

As of this time, these images are being held indefinitely in an unknown database, with no information on who has access to them or what the database is being used for. This policy has not been posted anywhere, and at least in a few cases, it was not communicated verbally to students for them to consent or decline.

There is no reason that policy 40.20 would likely entail stopping students without probable cause, or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. Compliance seems to hinge on the statement: “All persons on University property are required to abide by University policies and campus regulations.”

Those protesting were likely made aware of this risk, and Penal code section 626.6. does limit non-affiliate presence on campus if the individual is committing or likely to interfere with the peaceful conduct. However, students who are uninvolved with the protest have also been stopped in a reported pattern that may suggest racial profiling rather than reasonable suspicion.

As to whether students were required to comply when asked, considering the high police presence on campus, calls into question the relationship between those who were storing these photos and those who were taking these photos.

This relationship remains unclear to those subject to this process. The university did not state any additional information when I asked what the database was being used for or who had access to it. Given law enforcement’s long history of involvement with pro-Israel organizations there is concern that such a database could be leaked, compromise sensitive student records, or even lead to doxxing despite the fact that students being stopped are not necessarily even affiliated with any Pro-Palestinian groups.

Whether security are considered “university officials” would be another question, as third-party or contracted security may not have the same obligation or authority as what is intended in PACAOS.

The authority derived from this policy is intentionally vague. The lack of guidance within the policy, combined with no assertive protections on whether students can be subjected to random stops or have their information not only checked but documented at any time (potentially long-term) is troubling.

This form of surveillance and aggressive profiling is unusual for a state with no “stop and identify” statute. To most, it would probably seem unlikely that public university employees are entitled to ID-ing individuals at will; especially since police officers can’t even do such a thing.

This policy also may have created a negative effect on the larger POC community and the Arab and Muslim community, as students may feel more unsafe, profiled, and targeted by the University at a time when tensions are already high.

Backlash against the handling of the encampment and police brutality is ongoing at UCSD in the form of more protests, legal complaints, and graduating generations vowing to withhold donations and support for the school. 

UCSD should be using this opportunity to affirm their support for all students on campus, instead of escalating retaliation against minorities.

If you have more information on this incident, please do not hesitate to contact me.

If you feel you may be a victim of discrimination or harassment at UCSD, cases can be reported to ophd@ucsd.edu as well as on the Office of Civil Rights, OCR Discrimination Complaint Form or your own signed letter to ocr@ed.gov

Poli Sci and Comms major and film studies minor. Writer at the UCSD Guardian. Media studies fascinates me and in my free time I can be found writing essays at MOMs, debating the feminist trappings of Barbie (2023) diving into portrayal of Latin America in Western films, or making Spotify playlists.