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‘A Full Commitment’

"A full commitment to diversity and inclusion is a necessary condition for the excellence to which UAlbany aspires," Interim President James Stellar said. (Photo by Carlo de Jesus)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 6, 2016) — College campuses across the nation, including UAlbany, are engaged in discussions about possible changes to federal protections for undocumented immigrants, focused on concerns about what these changes would mean for undocumented students. These conversations include calls to declare UAlbany a “sanctuary campus.” 

A so-called “sanctuary campus” means a college or university has adopted policies to protect students who are undocumented immigrants from federal scrutiny or deportation. The sanctuary movement is a response to statements made by President-Elect Donald Trump, including a pledge to rescind an executive order granting temporary status to immigrant students living in the country illegally. During his campaign, Trump said he would launch a "deportation force" if elected.

Individual colleges within the SUNY system cannot declare themselves sanctuary campuses. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher recently issued a memorandum on this topic to campus presidents, noting that presidents do not have the legal authority to declare their campuses sanctuaries in relation to undocumented students, staff and faculty. Such a move could only come from the SUNY Board of Trustees.

Zimpher, however, encouraged campuses to “reinforce SUNY’s strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Interim President James Stellar said he supports Zimpher’s message of strengthening inclusion. “I wholeheartedly endorse the invitation to do so on our campus, as it helps us build on our significant ongoing efforts with our students to create an educational environment in which all can grow and develop their hearts and minds,” he said in a message to the campus. “A full commitment to diversity and inclusion is a necessary condition for the excellence to which UAlbany aspires.”

Stellar also noted that he has signed the “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students.” The petition, started at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., affirms “that DACA should be upheld, continued and expanded.”

Trump has said he would rescind DACA, which was launched by President Obama in 2012 and protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. The Pomona petition calls it “a moral imperative and a national necessity” to continue DACA provisions.

“America needs talent — and these students, who have been raised and educated in the United States are already part of our national community,” the petition reads. “They represent what is best about America, and as scholars and leaders they are essential to the future.”

The petition has been signed by nearly 500 university and college presidents and chancellors — including Zimpher.

Stellar also noted the importance of recognizing differences of opinion and the right to express opinions.

“The value of inclusivity requires us to protect freedom of speech and to encourage the expression of the wide range of opinions and perspectives held by members of our community,” he said. “The dialogue must take place in an environment of mutual respect that protects the safety and rights of every individual.”

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.