The U of C accepts undocumented students and provides them with need-based financial aid in accordance with its previously standing policies, Vice President for Campus Life Kimberly Goff-Crews clarified in a public statement and at a meeting with the U of C Coalition for Immigration Reform (UCCIR).
“We’ve always been open to undocumented students,” said Goff-Crews to the Maroon. “Our culture has been that we don’t comment on political larger social issues as a university,” she said.
UCCIR had petitioned last spring for the University to endorse the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would allow undocumented students meeting a number of qualifications to become citizens.
They also petitioned for the University to offer two merit-based scholarships for undocumented students in particular.
According to Goff-Crews, the University will not take positions on political issues in accordance with the Kalven Report, which dictates political neutrality except in extraordinary instances. Presidents at other universities, including Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, have supported the Dream Act.
“Our response is very University of Chicago in that it focuses on central values that the university has held since its founding,” said spokesman for the University Steven Kloehn.
Supporting undocumented students is in accordance with the University’s mission and diversity statement, not a political statement, Goff-Crews added. “We comment on things that relate directly to our mission—attracting, enrolling, and supporting the best students no matter who they are.”
According to UCCIR leader and third-year Jonathan Rodrigues, Goff-Crews said at the meeting she reread the University’s policies on scholarships and financial aid to evaluate whether the University could provide financial aid to undocumented students under its currently existing policies and legal obligations.
Working with several departments, including admissions and communications, the Administration drafted the statement starting over the summer.
As long as funds remain private, the University can provide financial aid to undocumented students. The statement on undocumented students clarifies, “In accordance with the law, the University admits and enrolls undocumented students and uses private funds to provide financial aid to support their studies.”
Rodrigues and fourth-year UCCIR leader Cindy Agustin said they didn’t know undocumented students could receive aid. They said the next step for UCCIR will be to educate the campus about the policy and to work with campus institutions to provide support for students.
The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and the Office of International Students will be working with UCCIR to improve resources for undocumented students and increase awareness on the issue.
“We’re going to do a systematic review to see where we can make changes starting next week —doing a review of policy practices and procedures that are blocking people’s ability to take advantage of this university,” said Goff-Crews.
Goff-Crews said she was impressed by the group’s efforts to raise awareness. “They’ve done a very good job about educating us with the issues,” she said.
Rodrigues and Agustin said they were very happy with the University’s response. Although it did not fulfill UCCIR’s specific demands, they said, it did fulfill the spirit of their petition.
“This was a weak spot of the admininstration” said Rodrigues. “The administration needed to be called out on this point, and they responded very well,” he said.