A proposed College Council (CC) resolution aimed at supporting undocumented students has been amended after a senior administrator suggested the University was already pursuing the steps the resolution recommended.
According to a December 20 e-mail from Dean of Students in the University Michele Rasmussen to Student Government President Eric Holmberg and CC Chair Peggy Xu that was later sent to the CC listhost, the University administration is taking several steps to support both undocumented students and students protected under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action.
A group of administrators has been meeting regularly since the presidential election to identify “areas of concern and resources…for undocumented students,” and an advisory group of senior administrators co-chaired by Rasmussen and Executive Vice Provost Sian Beilock was formed recently to discuss support for students protected under DACA, according to Rasmussen’s e-mail.
The administrators come from the Center for Identity + Inclusion, the Center for College Student Success, Student Counseling, UChicagoGRAD, the Offices of Legal Counsel and Federal Relations, and the School of Social Service Administration. They are planning to host support groups and forums this quarter.
Beilock and Rasmussen also met with a group of “DACAmented” UChicago students, and plan to keep these students updated on “action steps” in the coming weeks, according to the e-mail.
Nonetheless, CC will be convening Tuesday to vote on a non-binding resolution calling for the creation of an additional advisory body that would include students and faculty.
Since Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, several universities have declared themselves so-called “sanctuary campuses,” which means they will limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities in order to protect undocumented students from deportation. University spokesperson Jeremy Manier avoided the phrase “sanctuary campus” in a recent exchange with The Maroon.
Trump has promised to repeal DACA, thus eliminating work permits and protection from deportation for young people who were brought to the United States as children.
Beilock and Rasmussen, along with Provost Daniel Diermeier, met with faculty who sent a December 1 letter to the Provost and President Zimmer urging them to do more to support undocumented students on campus.
According to Rasmussen’s e-mail, faculty restated many of the concerns that were raised in their letter: legal services for undocumented and DACAmented students, counseling, privacy and the role of the UCPD in immigration enforcement, and financial support.
“[The faculty members] also reiterated the need for broader communication of some of the University’s current policies and practices that might be poorly understood (or unknown)—these include things like the University’s stance on releasing personal information about students and staff to third parties,” Rasmussen wrote.
CC will consider another non-binding resolution tonight calling on the University to become a “sanctuary campus” for undocumented students.
In her e-mail to Holmberg and Xu, Rasmussen also mentioned the first meeting of the newly formed senior administrator DACA advisory group. The advisory group’s priorities are legal services, funding for current and incoming students, and communication, Rasmussen wrote.
Despite calling for more aggressive action from the University to support undocumented students, first-year CC representative Jahne Brown, who co-authored the two CC resolutions, told The Maroon that she is pleased with the steps the administration has taken so far.
“We really commend the progress that the University has made…. This resolution isn’t a critique of what the University has done, rather this is us seeing the great progress the University has made and asking them to carry out that commitment and asking a bit more,” Brown said.
After receiving the e-mail from Rasmussen, Xu forwarded it to the three CC representatives who authored the resolutions: Brown and first-years Kosi Achife and Veronica Myers.
Upon learning that an advisory council already exists, Xu and the authors considered modifying the resolution that called for an advisory council.
“I think it’ll be helpful to make sure that CC and admin are in sync about what’s being done to protect undocumented/DACAmented students, primarily so we’re not wasting any energy pushing for next steps or programs that are already underway,” Xu wrote in the e-mail to the first-year representatives.
In an e-mail response, Brown admitted that perhaps not all the parts of the resolutions were still necessary. However, she wrote that she was “worried” about changing the resolutions, because they were mostly written by other students who are not involved in SG (the representatives were bringing the resolutions to CC as “allies”).
Shortly thereafter, Brown sent the amended resolution proposing an advisory council to Xu. It contained two changes: one maintains the right of the proposed council to set its own agenda and the other resolves that should another body release a public plan of action, the council will remain involved in all future administrative decisions.
Fourth-year CC representative Joshua Engelman expressed frustration that CC is spending its time voting on a resolution that calls for the administration to create more bodies, which he called “not a good use of time.”
“This kind of blatant political pandering is the reason no one takes SG seriously. SG has the potential to address serious issues, but pushing vague resolutions on the administration is not the way to do it,” Engelman said.
On Monday night, Achife and Myers told The Maroon that they were still considering whether or not to bring the advisory council resolution to a vote. They ultimately decided they would.
“The steps the University has taken have been very backdoor and it hasn’t been a transparent process…. We are open to our advisory council working with the bodies already in place,” Achife said.
Xu told The Maroon that she plans to inform CC of the existing administrative bodies at the Tuesday night meeting.
When asked whether she thought the advisory council resolution was redundant, Xu wasn’t sure.
“It’s hard to know if there is a significant overlap without knowing specifics of the administrative council,” she said.
All CC meetings are open to the University community. The vote will take place January 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Stuart 104.
Copies of the resolutions that will be voted on tonight are below.