Stony Brook University students demonstrate on the grassy steps outside...

Stony Brook University students demonstrate on the grassy steps outside the campus’ Staller Center on May 1. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Two Stony Brook University professors and eight students were arraigned Tuesday on disorderly conduct charges stemming from a May 1 pro-Palestinian protest on the campus.

That followed the arraignment of 19 other protesters on Monday, and as the head of Stony Brook’s Faculty Senate said efforts to investigate and gain oversight of campus police were being stalled by the university’s administration.

Professors Josh Dubnau, a neurobiologist, and Abena Asare, a member of the Africana Studies department, took turns along with students before Judge Bernard Cheng in Suffolk County District Court in Central Islip to hear the charges. The professors and some students had the black and white Palestinian scarf called a kaffiyeh draped around their shoulders.

Peter Brill, a lawyer representing the protesters, called on the university to urge the Suffolk County district attorney to drop the charges, which are noncriminal offenses.

“We hope that between now and June, given the interests among all of the parties at Stony Brook to move past this incident, that there will be a strong recommendation to the district attorney to move to dismiss these charges and let everyone open a new chapter,” Brill said after the arraignments.

Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis, through a spokesperson, declined to comment.

The protesters were arrested May 1 after university officials ordered them to move to another location, and they refused. During their detention for up to 7 1/2 hours, campus police seized 17 of their cellphones and kept them for more than a week. 

McInnis came under fire and narrowly won a censure vote by the Faculty Senate on May 13.

A week earlier, the Senate approved a resolution calling for an independent investigation of Enterprise Risk Management, the Stony Brook group that oversees campus police, and its handling of the protests and “intelligence gathering” of staff, faculty and students. Some professors called the seizure of the phones more typical of an authoritarian police state.

The resolution also called for the formation of a Senate subcommittee to exercise continuing oversight of ERM.

Richard Larson, president of the Faculty Senate, said the proposal has stalled because of a lack of cooperation by the university administration.

“There is no indication from administration that they are disposed to act on either of the two resolutions that were passed at the last public Senate meeting,” Larson said, referring also to a resolution calling for the disorderly conduct charges to be dropped. “Their stance is not openly collaborative.”

McInnis’s office declined to comment.

Asare said McInnis needs to take action to restore trust at the university.

“We have a lot of questions about why phones were seized for almost two weeks, and we have lots of questions about whether they were accessed or used,” she said. “The Senate has passed some clear-cut efforts to ask for oversight over this because there’s been a huge loss of trust among faculty, students and staff. We need to have that trust built back, and the only way to do that is through transparency and real openness about how all these choices are being made, about how to watch people, to surveil, and to act.”

Legal experts have told Newsday that seizing and keeping someone’s property after they are released from custody generally is illegal unless authorities have a warrant or the property is considered evidence in a crime. Dubnau has said the protesters were shown no warrant. 

“Without a warrant or probable cause to believe that there was any evidence of a crime, that’s deeply concerning in itself and it’s a clear violation of my clients’ Fourth Amendment rights,” Brill said.

Stony Brook has denied it searched the phones. It has not said whether it had a warrant or why it seized the devices. According to Dubnau, the protesters have seen indications that there were attempts to access their phones while campus police held them.

Two Stony Brook University professors and eight students were arraigned Tuesday on disorderly conduct charges stemming from a May 1 pro-Palestinian protest on the campus.

That followed the arraignment of 19 other protesters on Monday, and as the head of Stony Brook’s Faculty Senate said efforts to investigate and gain oversight of campus police were being stalled by the university’s administration.

Professors Josh Dubnau, a neurobiologist, and Abena Asare, a member of the Africana Studies department, took turns along with students before Judge Bernard Cheng in Suffolk County District Court in Central Islip to hear the charges. The professors and some students had the black and white Palestinian scarf called a kaffiyeh draped around their shoulders.

Peter Brill, a lawyer representing the protesters, called on the university to urge the Suffolk County district attorney to drop the charges, which are noncriminal offenses.

“We hope that between now and June, given the interests among all of the parties at Stony Brook to move past this incident, that there will be a strong recommendation to the district attorney to move to dismiss these charges and let everyone open a new chapter,” Brill said after the arraignments.

Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis, through a spokesperson, declined to comment.

The protesters were arrested May 1 after university officials ordered them to move to another location, and they refused. During their detention for up to 7 1/2 hours, campus police seized 17 of their cellphones and kept them for more than a week. 

McInnis came under fire and narrowly won a censure vote by the Faculty Senate on May 13.

A week earlier, the Senate approved a resolution calling for an independent investigation of Enterprise Risk Management, the Stony Brook group that oversees campus police, and its handling of the protests and “intelligence gathering” of staff, faculty and students. Some professors called the seizure of the phones more typical of an authoritarian police state.

The resolution also called for the formation of a Senate subcommittee to exercise continuing oversight of ERM.

Richard Larson, president of the Faculty Senate, said the proposal has stalled because of a lack of cooperation by the university administration.

“There is no indication from administration that they are disposed to act on either of the two resolutions that were passed at the last public Senate meeting,” Larson said, referring also to a resolution calling for the disorderly conduct charges to be dropped. “Their stance is not openly collaborative.”

McInnis’s office declined to comment.

Asare said McInnis needs to take action to restore trust at the university.

“We have a lot of questions about why phones were seized for almost two weeks, and we have lots of questions about whether they were accessed or used,” she said. “The Senate has passed some clear-cut efforts to ask for oversight over this because there’s been a huge loss of trust among faculty, students and staff. We need to have that trust built back, and the only way to do that is through transparency and real openness about how all these choices are being made, about how to watch people, to surveil, and to act.”

Legal experts have told Newsday that seizing and keeping someone’s property after they are released from custody generally is illegal unless authorities have a warrant or the property is considered evidence in a crime. Dubnau has said the protesters were shown no warrant. 

“Without a warrant or probable cause to believe that there was any evidence of a crime, that’s deeply concerning in itself and it’s a clear violation of my clients’ Fourth Amendment rights,” Brill said.

Stony Brook has denied it searched the phones. It has not said whether it had a warrant or why it seized the devices. According to Dubnau, the protesters have seen indications that there were attempts to access their phones while campus police held them.

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