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Boston College students face discipline over protests

BC student Jonathan Sepulveda listened to speakers at a Stand Against Hate Rally on the campus of Boston College on Nov. 14.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Seven Boston College students face disciplinary action, including possible expulsion, for organizing two peaceful protests following the election of Donald Trump, the students said Monday.

The unofficial student group Eradicate Boston College Racism helped organize two recent rallies on campus, one Nov. 14 against all forms of hate and another Dec. 1 that was part of a national college campus walkout in support of undocumented immigrants who fear deportation under the Trump administration. At the rallies, students gathered on O’Neill Plaza on the BC campus, holding banners and candles and speaking against what they perceive as various forms of injustice and hate at BC and beyond.

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A college spokesman said the students are not facing discipline for participating in a protest, but for failure to comply with “a well-established policy regarding campus demonstrations.’’

Of the seven students, four were summoned to an administrative hearing to adjudicate the matter, while three were asked to meet with administrators for a “conversational resolution,” according to the school.

Although expulsion is a possible penalty for the four facing administrative hearings, BC spokesman Jack Dunn said it is “not within the realm of possibility for this type of incident.”

But, he said, “the University is within its right to hold them to the same rules and standards that apply to all BC students regarding campus demonstrations.”

Dunn said there have been nine registered rallies on campus in the past year.

The students involved in the recent rallies have turned to the American Civil Liberties Union to advise them about their rights on a private college campus. Sarah Wunsch, deputy legal director of the state ACLU, called the school’s move to discipline students “startling.”

“I’d say shame on Boston College. This is a time when other universities, I think, are actually praising their students for speaking out and being active and engaging in the issues of the day,” Wunsch said.

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While the First Amendment technically does not apply at private colleges, state law allows for freedom of expression as long as it doesn’t disrupt others, she said.

The students acknowledge that they did not file for a permit and that, by design, their group is not an officially registered student organization.

The group chose not to attempt to become a registered organization because another similar group was denied official status multiple times, and because they do not wish to be subject to the rules that come with official recognition, such as not criticizing the university, students said.

This is not the first time BC has cited students after demonstrations. In December 2014, some students faced disciplinary warnings for participating in a Black Lives Matter “die-in’’ inside the campus residence of the Jesuit community.

The students said the larger question is more important than the logistics of permits and registration.

“BC has this Jesuit mission statement for social justice. . . . They’re just contradicting themselves by punishing students for peacefully organizing themselves,” said Chad Olle, a doctoral student studying counseling psychology.

The students said they spend more time wrangling with administrators over permit policies and disciplinary hearings than they do talking to them about the social issues they want to solve.

BC doctoral student Kimberly Ashby led the Stand Against Hate Rally on Nov. 14.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.