Petition, Resolution Reaffirm Dickinson Values

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Student Senate, paired with the Student Liberation Movement (SLM), College Republicans and College Democrats, penned a resolution with the intention of “affirming the diversity of thought” on campus and within students, according to Krysti Oschal ’17, president of the Dickinson College Republicans.

The resolution, titled “United as One Community,” cites both the Dickinson College mission statement and motto to reaffirm Dickinson’s core values of “preparing the citizens and leaders who would ensure the success of the new democracy,” becoming “engaged citizens by incorporating a global vision,” and the belief that “freedom is made safe through character and learning.”  The resolution also references “students of different opinions and political perspectives,” a “belief that they feel unable to exchange views freely and openly” and the “concern about the uncertain and unsettled status of non-citizens” in the Dickinson community.

As such, the organizations involved resolve to be committed to the “values of a global education, cross-cultural learning experiences and inclusiveness” as well as welcoming students “from all over the world” for their contribution to “the vitality and dynamism” to the community.  They also pledge their commitment to the safety and well-being of all students.

“The statement we’re putting forward is in no way political,” said Savanna Riley ’17, Student Senate president.  However, the resolution was formed the same day that a petition to make Dickinson a “sanctuary college” began circulating on the Facebook pages of students, alumni and faculty.

The petition, which was headed by Eric Vazquez, assistant professor of American studies and Katherine Schweighofer, assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, as well as a larger group of contributing faculty, has accrued over 350 signatures by print time on Tuesday, Feb. 7. 

“The hope is that Dickinson can join a number of campuses and declare Dickinson a sanctuary campus for undocumented Dickinsonians,” Vazquez commented. “To call the campus a sanctuary… sends a message to our community that we will support them as best we can in the face of deeply uncertain and at times frightening changes to immigration law.”

The document is in response to several campaign promises made by President Trump and mirrors some of the actions being taken by other cities and colleges/universities.

While campaigning, Trump vowed to deport approximately 4 million illegal immigrants and to overturn Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors to stay in the country with a protected status.

Commonly known as Trump’s “Muslim Ban,” the Executive Order issued by the Trump administration on Jan. 27, according to whitehouse.gov, “halt[s] all refugee admissions and temporarily bar[s] people from seven Muslim-majority countries,” according to BBC News.  Although “a federal judge in Seattle suspended [the order] nationwide,” the order places an “indefinite ban on Syrian refugees” as well as “anyone arriving from…Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen” who will now face a “90-day suspension.”  Exceptions can “be made on a case-by-case basis” but, according to BBC News, “the order also introduces a cap of 50,000 refugees to be accepted in 2017, against a limit of 110,000 set by former President Barack Obama.” 

These threats have resulted in students calling for their colleges and universities to become “sanctuary campuses,” in order to protect undocumented students from deportation, according to USA Today College. The term “sanctuary campus,” imitative of “sanctuary cities” where local governments agree to protect immigrants, has been defined as a safe space for undocumented students in varying degrees ranging from unofficial “safe spaces” to preventing federal deportation of students at all costs. Such policies could involve a refusal to cooperate with federal immigration officials or “providing legal and educational resources” to undocumented students. 

The movement began initially at about 80 colleges and universities, including Harvard University and New York University, according to CNN.  Since the election, approximately 28 universities are now sanctuaries, according to Yahoo! News. 

According to the New York Times, other universities have taken steps and adopted policies such as not permitting immigration agents onto their campus without a warrant.  In contrast, both New Mexico State University and Emory University have refused to “establish [themselves] as a sanctuary campus,” citing peril of federal funding and an expectation for institutions to “follow the law” in an article from the New York Times. 

The New York Times also published a statement from Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, who “suggested that canceling DACA would not be a priority for the new administration.” 

Interim President Neil Weissman addressed both the petition and other controversial topics of political discourse on campus at both the Student Senate meeting and the Feb. 7 faculty meeting, with the intention of “clarify[ing] where the college stands.”

“In regards to Trump’s Executive Order of the travelling ban on immigration and the DACA, we believe there are very few individuals on campus who might be affected,” he stated in an email to The Dickinsonian.  “We have reached out to those few known individuals and to all of our international students to offer advice and to inform them of organizations and individuals that may have additional expertise to help them navigate these confusing developments.”

In response to concerns about financial aid and admissions for international students, Weissman said: “Our admissions counselors will not consider the executive order or DACA status when making enrollment decisions this year.  We will admit students as usual. DACA and international students are not eligible for federal or state assistance, so there is no concern that their financial aid is in jeopardy.”

Finally, Weissman addressed the petition to make Dickinson a sanctuary campus.

“We are not currently planning to [be] a sanctuary campus.  We don’t have the authority [to establish a sanctuary campus] … [Doing so] requires approval by the Board of Trustees.”

He continued:

“Using the term [sanctuary campus] implies promises that we cannot lawfully fulfill…we cannot prevent enforcement of laws…that’s a simple fact.”

He also commented on the possibility of federal or state officials coming to campus per future executive actions, saying, “Dickinson is an open campus and because of that we cannot single out any group of people including federal personnel, [however] DPS [Dickinson Public Safety] will not participate in any inquiries about a student’s immigration status…[nor] participate in any federal immigration enforcement action on campus unless required by law.”

Weissman shared some reactions from the letter he sent to the Dickinson community on Jan. 30, to continue with the meeting’s theme of political discourse on campus.

He has received “about 170 responses” from parents and alumni on the letter, which repudiates Trump’s “Muslim ban,” 110 of which were positive, and the rest of which were critical.

“I believe that there are times when the college should stand up on issues,” he stated “There are even some who think we haven’t gone far enough.” He also shared that others emailed were concerned, and maintained that it was not appropriate for Dickinson to take a side on any political issues, and that they felt sorry for students on campus who don’t agree with the letter.

In response, Weissman told the attendees of the Student Senate meeting, “when members of this community are affected, threatened, insecure…we need to speak out… When our core values are threatened, we should speak out and defend the pursuit of truth and global engagement.”

The full text of the resolution is available on Student Senate’s orgsync page.

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