Stanford College Republicans (SCR) President John Rice-Cameron ’20 has dropped the charges he previously filed against Melinda Hernandez ’21, SCR announced in a Facebook post made Monday night. Rice-Cameron had alleged that Hernandez pushed him during a White Plaza tabling event last Tuesday, and Hernandez was issued a citation for battery at the scene.
“Although it is entirely within the legal rights of our president to press charges, he has decided to drop the charges in an expression of goodwill and in the hope that doing so will help diffuse tension on campus,” SCR wrote.
The incident in question occurred while SCR members, including Rice-Cameron, were holding an event in support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, despite numerous sexual assault allegations against him. Rice-Cameron told authorities that Hernandez “shoved him in the chest with her hand during a verbal disagreement,” Stanford Department of Public Safety spokesperson Bill Larson told The Daily at the time.
Hernandez and other witnesses denied that the contact was forceful, and Hernandez said it was prompted by Rice-Cameron refusing to stop videotaping her without her consent.
Hernandez was placed under a private person arrest and issued the battery citation by police who arrived at the scene. A message leaked from SCR’s group chat on the day of the arrest confirmed that Rice-Cameron had filed a police report and was planning to press “full charges” against Hernandez.
“She got in my face and proceeded to hit me in the chest area and push me back forcefully,” Rice-Cameron said.
Larson said there was no obvious injury to anyone involved, and Rice-Cameron declined to be evaluated by paramedics on the scene.
“I hope that my willingness to drop the charges will set the tone for more respect and decency in political discourse going forward,” Rice-Cameron told The Daily. “I hope that the student who assaulted me will do her part and acknowledge that her behavior was completely inappropriate.”
Sean Webby, Public Communications Officer for the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, said they “have not yet received the case to review.”
The SCR statement calls for Hernandez to apologize for the alleged assault, as well as to “do her part to contribute to a more respectful and civil Stanford” and acknowledge “the right of all students to express their views peacefully.”
Hernandez did not immediately respond to a request for comment, although a public Facebook post she previously wrote described the charges as “an exertion of power and privilege” by SCR.
“Those who know my character, from a distance or up close, know my fight in social justice lies in peace,” she added.
Stanford Democrats President Gabe Rosen ’19 expressed hope that SCR would follow through on its commitment to “civility and respectful dialogue,” but also questioned the mechanisms through which the conservative student group approaches those ends.
“It’s our belief that such engagement can’t be realized in the form of publicly challenging random students on the street to address emotionally charged issues, seeing as those lopsided encounters usually end up undermining the stated goal of facilitating informed discourse,” Rosen said. “Setting up debates moderated by neutral third parties would be more preferable for civility as a demonstration of good faith and for giving people the choice whether to participate or not.”
Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole and Senior Associate Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Access Lauren Schoenthaler addressed the incident in a Thursday post on the University-run blog Notes from the Quad.
“These issues come at a time when many in our community are feeling vulnerable, whether because of the polarized political culture in our country, or the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings and the issues they raised, or other reasons,” the post read. “In these times, it is especially important to reiterate our shared responsibility for creating a community of care and respect for one another, and for the reasoned discussion of ideas that is at the heart of what universities contribute to our society.”
The post also announced plans to convene student groups to discuss the incident further.
Amid a national debate over the extent of and limits on free speech, particularly on college campuses, the White Plaza incident has received national attention. The Washington Post ran a story Monday that discussed the incident in the context of Rice-Cameron’s relationship with his mother, former national security adviser to President Barack Obama Susan Rice. SCR treasurer Ben Esposito also discussed the incident in a recent Fox News segment.
This report has been updated with comment from the Stanford Democrats and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, and will be updated further pending comment from Hernandez and others.
Contact Brian Contreras at brianc42 ‘at’ stanford.edu.