The following message was sent to the University of the South community from Vice-Chancellor John McCardell regarding recent immigration policy changes.
To the University Community,
Most of you know by now that on January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that temporarily suspended entry into the United States for nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Some legal challenges to the president’s action have been initiated; we do not know how all those will be resolved.
Sewanee currently has no students with student visas from the seven countries specified in the order. We also have no non-U.S. citizen faculty members from those countries.
We do have current and prospective students and faculty members who are non-U.S. citizens from other countries who may be concerned about their future status. The Offices of Global Citizenship and the Dean of the College, as well as Student Life, are reaching out to those students and faculty members to offer support and guidance.
Andrea Del Balso, in the Office of Global Citizenship, and Abby Colbert, assistant counsel for global affairs, are in touch with students and faculty most affected. Any student with questions or concerns can contact Andrea (extension 1884), and faculty with questions can contact Abby (extension 3106). The Office of Student Life also stands ready to support any students who have concerns.
I returned late Wednesday from the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), of which Sewanee is a member and on whose Board of Directors I sit. NAICU yesterday signed on to a letter drafted by the American Council on Education. This letter, on behalf of 47 national education associations, has been endorsed already by many college and university presidents, including myself. You can read the statement here. An abridged version of this letter, signed individually by member presidents, will be released Friday by ACE.
Sewanee has also joined NAICU members in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Read the full statement here. I signed for the University this week.
DACA, an executive order issued by President Obama, provides temporary protection from removal and work authorization to young students and veterans who grew up in the United States if they register with the government, pay a fee, and pass a criminal background check. More than 750,000 young people have received protection under DACA.
Finally, Sewanee has joined other NAICU members in support of the BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy) Act. This bipartisan act would provide relief from deportation and employment authorization for three years after the date of enactment to individuals who are eligible under the DACA program, thus protecting them from deportation while Congress debates broader legislation to reform the immigration system.
I learned much at the NAICU meeting from both fellow presidents and experts in the field of immigration law. The recurrent theme was uncertainty, and, in the face of uncertainty, to speak and act with caution, lest well-intentioned actions or statements inadvertently put those whom we seek to protect at greater risk. Restraint in times of high anxiety is often the most difficult of options to choose. Nevertheless, we need to try to separate what is known and factual from what is suspected and hypothetical. And we must remember that a university is not, and cannot be, either an arm of, or a haven from, the law.
The primary concern of the University remains the welfare of all our students, faculty, and staff. As our Campus Commitment to Diversity states with regard to University policies: “In its educational programs and activities and with regard to employment, the University of the South stands firmly for the principle that its students and employees (faculty and staff) have a right to be free from discrimination and harassment based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, and genetic information and free from sexual misconduct. Moreover, we promote the flourishing of a diverse and inclusive campus community.” As events continue to unfold, I assure the community, and especially those most likely to be affected by changes at the national level, that the University will stay actively involved in these national conversations and work closely with other institutions and our elected representatives in the spirit of the University motto, “Ecce Quam Bonum.”