In the wake of the presidential election, our community has expressed deep concerns about the enforcement of immigration laws and the potential elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Here at Oberlin, I have heard undocumented students express fear for the future of their education, their ability to work and travel, and even their basic safety. It is heartbreaking to hear these valued members of our educational community contemplate such barriers after trusting the DACA program to support them in their achievements and recognize their contributions to campuses across the country.
I know many of you, reckoning with your own uncertainty and anxiety about possible changes in Federal government, signed the petition calling on Oberlin “to join other colleges and universities and investigate how to make Oberlin a sanctuary campus that will protect our community members from intimidation, unfair investigation, and deportation.” We acknowledge and thank Obies for Undocumented Inclusion and the Undocumented Student Initiatives of the Multicultural Resource Center for their efforts to raise awareness of and support undocumented students at Oberlin College before and during this critical juncture.
The term “sanctuary” in this context is not well defined. But it does convey Oberlin’s long-standing values of respect for diversity, inclusion and human rights. So as I embrace the spirit of the “sanctuary campus” movement, I also want to outline practical measures Oberlin is taking to protect those who may be at risk during this challenging time.
• admitting all qualified students regardless of immigration status and meeting the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted students. This position reflects Oberlin’s long-standing commitment to the importance of a diverse and inclusive educational community and to dismantling barriers to an Oberlin education. Oberlin’s historical legacy teaches us that confronting injustice as an educational community is critical to achieving our goal of offering a truly excellent and transformative education.
• refraining from providing information about our community members’ immigration status to government agents or allowing government agents to gain access to our campus, unless required to do so by a court order, subpoena, warrant, or other lawfully authorized directive – a long-standing practice which we will now regard as institutional policy.
• identifying resources to promote the success of all students – including undocumented students – at Oberlin. Our commitment to meeting the full demonstrated financial need is unwavering. If a student loses work eligibility and work can no longer be part of a financial aid award, we will identify other sources to meet financial need. Where possible, for students who lose driver’s licenses or face other challenges as a result of changes in the DACA program, we will make referrals to legal experts, seek to identify transportation assistance, and make other support that may become necessary. Individuals seeking these or other resources may call the Dean of Students office for assistance (440-775-8462). Staff with professional expertise related to support of undocumented students are also available at the Multicultural Resource Center (440-775-8802).
Our commitment to inclusion has always been, and will continue to be, a fight for justice in the face of social, political, and economic injustice. Undocumented students in the United States have organized with passion, courage, and determination to dismantle barriers related to immigration status on campuses and beyond.
I have been inspired by this movement. I honor and recognize the students who have chosen to bring their talents to Oberlin. We will do everything we can to support you as cherished members of our community, in keeping with our fundamental values as an institution.
We recognize that this effort cannot be confined to our campus. In that spirit, we will continue to cooperate with the City of Oberlin, which passed a resolution in 2009 declaring its intention to respect the civil and human rights of all residents regardless of race, ethnicity or immigration status.
We will closely monitor changes in relevant public policy and law. As circumstances develop, we will continue to collaborate with our partners in higher education who call for just national and local policies and seek refinements in our institutional policies and practices to reinforce our unwavering support for undocumented students and report these developments in a prompt and accessible manner.
One week ago, I signed a “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students.” The statement, drafted by David Oxtoby, president of Pomona College, has been signed by hundreds of college and university presidents from public and private colleges.
It concludes with these words: “To our country’s leaders we say that DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded. We are prepared to meet with you to present our case. This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity. America needs talent – and these students, who have been raised and educated in the United States, are already part of our national community. They represent what is best about America, and as scholars and leaders they are essential to the future. We call on our colleagues and other leaders across the business, civic, religious, and non-profit sectors to join with us in this urgent matter.”
Marvin Krislov, President