My university, Dominican University, has declared itself a sanctuary campus. We have a long history as a national leader in supporting the rights of undocumented students to access higher education, including regular fund-raising to make that possible. In 2014 I wrote:
Over the last few years at my Roman Catholic university, we have begun to act, both admitting and financially supporting undocumented students. It may seem risky, but as Donna Carroll, our president at Dominican University, always says, “It’s the right thing to do.”
I saw our position around these issues as the strength of both being small (so a single act of leadership can really change course) and mission driven. I wrote:
Catholic colleges must commit to a core and challenging set of beliefs, but they do get to choose what to emphasize and where to concentrate resources. At their best, faced with the same financial pressures as all other institutions, Catholic colleges and universities have a mission that allows them to make arguments about justice, even ones that might risk alienating donors of particular political ideologies or even running counter to ideas held by some within the church. Dominican University provided health care to domestic partners for same-sex couples years ago because the universal right to health care, part of the dignity of the person, trumped other concerns. As Donna Carroll notes, “As the infrastructure of higher education become more and more like a business, it’s harder to take a stand that may compromise the business.” Commitment to mission allows you to take such stands because they are right, not because they are wise.
Of course, such a position is also fiscally wise. We are a majority Latinx institution. We need to listen to and serve our core community.
Here’s a link to the full statement of declaring Dominican a Sanctuary Campus.
BE IT RESOLVED, that Dominican University commits to a campus climate and an academic experience that promote the security and well-being of all persons, especially those who are underrepresented and struggling for voice and opportunity. To that end, as directed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the university will not provide access to student information, including any records that identify immigration status, except as required by federal, state or local laws, and only in the presence of formal documentation.
FURTHER, we affirm and will advance, to the extent possible, the 2011 Ruling by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which notes that law enforcement and ICE officials should enter the campus for law enforcement purposes without the permission of the university only under the most exigent and compelling circumstances.
FURTHER STILL, the university will continue to support undocumented students — to promote academic access and success, provide financial aid, as possible, and ensure that Dominican University is a welcoming and safe environment for all, regardless of background.
I don’t know if such declarations make a difference (though the money obviously does). What I do know is that it’s the right thing to do and we all need to practice taking moral public positions, as the next few years will test us in that regard.