SUNY New Paltz Students:
Many in the SUNY New Paltz community, myself included, are deeply concerned about impacts of recent and ongoing actions and stances of President Trump’s administration that impact undocumented students, immigrants and their families, and our educational mission as a public university. We share a commitment to diversity, the safety of all students, the power of education, and the importance of hearing the multiplicity of voices that a diverse community represents.
I have written before (messages of December 1, 2016 and January 24 and 29, 2017) about these and related topics and to keep the community informed about key developments. In that spirit, I write to share information about:
- resources for students who are affected by these actions (or concerned that they or family members will be);
- recent action by New York State officials and the SUNY Board of Trustees that clarify the State and SUNY longstanding positions on these topics that I hope will be reassuring to students, faculty, and staff; and
- advocacy on these issues.
. Students have inquired about sources of information and guidance as they navigate the uncertainties that they face. Here are links to New York State and other resources that may be useful for immigrant or undocumented students and their families, and also for LGBTQ students. Thank you to our EOP Advisors for compiling these resources and sharing them with me to include in this message:
SUNY and State Positions. I want to acknowledge the concerns raised by many advocating for campuses to declare themselves “sanctuaries.” The term “sanctuary campus” may have symbolic meaning but has no common legal basis or statutory protection; SUNY campus presidents are not authorized to declare a campus a “sanctuary.” However, the SUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution on Jan. 24 reaffirming longstanding policies and practices that support undocumented students.
Here are some key parts of the Board of Trustees resolution (full text available here
- Continue the longstanding policy that University Police departments do not participate in enforcement of federal immigration law except under court order or other legal mandate;
- Express strong support for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals);
- Continue the longstanding practice of prohibiting discriminatory actions on the basis of protected class, including national origin;
- Continue the longstanding practice of defending privacy rights of students and requiring a subpoena, court order, search warrant or other exception to FERPA;
- Continue the longstanding practice of allowing undocumented individuals to pay resident tuition, provided criteria specified by State law are met;
- Continue the practice and policy of not considering national origin or immigration status in admissions decisions; and,
- Continue the longstanding practice of welcoming students of all religions.
In addition, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued guidelines (full text here
) for local law enforcement agencies about immigration enforcement which are in full agreement with SUNY policies.
These documents will continue to guide SUNY action – including that of SUNY New Paltz - to support students, faculty, and staff.
Advocacy. In December, I joined other college and university presidents across the country in signing a statement encouraging then President-elect Donald Trump to abandon his campaign commitment to end the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, which has been so meaningful in creating educational opportunity for many. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher also signed that letter. I also reached out to our U.S. Senators encouraging their support of the proposed BRIDGE act (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow our Economy) that would provide temporary relief from deportation for young undocumented individuals. Last week, I signed a letter along with other campus presidents and higher-education organization leaders to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, affirming the importance of international students and the need to ensure the United States remains the destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest students, faculty, and scholars. This letter was written in response to President Trump’s Executive Order on immigration, which has sparked intense reaction nationwide and across the world, and brought uncertainty and fear to many students and supporters. The letter noted that colleges and universities have partnered with the Department of Homeland Security in protecting our country since the agency’s inception, and desire to continue this collaboration.
I will continue my involvement in such advocacy efforts as appropriate for my role and position as president of a public university. SUNY leaders and national organizations of which we are members are monitoring implementation of the Executive Order; we will share updated information as it is available.
Many of our students, as well as some faculty and staff, are rightly concerned about the impacts of federal actions on their educational future, their lives, and their friends and families. I take this opportunity to remind the college community that these topics can lead to passionate conversations from all perspectives. Respectful and inclusive dialogue upholds our mission and our values. I hope that we recognize the challenges that some members of our community are facing and support them through these difficult and uncertain times.
Donald P. Christian