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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Make Our School a Sanctuary

Dear Grinnell College Administration and Board of Trustees:

Grinnell College prides itself in upholding its core values of fostering a diverse community and committing to a life-long project of social responsibility. Yet we —  Grinnell College faculty, staff, student body, alumni, family members and members of the broader community — believe these critical elements that make up the College’s mission and core values are being challenged in the wake of the recent presidential election. The election announcement that President-elect Donald Trump would take office in January makes our commitment to social responsibility and creating a diverse and inclusive community imperative today, especially for the undocumented College community, which has been threatened during the election cycle.

From early on in his candidacy, draconian immigration and border control measures have been one of Trump’s top priorities. These measures will, in all likelihood, affect undocumented students around the country, as well as in Grinnell College. President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) currently safeguards many undocumented students from deportation, grants them work authorization and enables them to obtain driver’s licenses. It has also opened doors for employment, greater participation in America’s democracy and a unique sense of belonging. Not only is Trump an imminent threat to DACA, but he has also threatened to block and overturn progressive immigration policies. President-elect Trump now possesses the power to materialize his words with the support of our Congress, making the repeal of vital immigration policies not only possible, but frighteningly plausible.

Grinnell’s history of social responsibility, such as being a center for abolitionist activity before and during the Civil War, demands that our institution implement concrete actions to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. Thus we urge the school take the following steps to protect them:

  Declare the immediate possibility of our campus serving as a sanctuary for students, staff and their family members who face imminent deportation. We have reason to believe that Grinnell police officers cannot enter the campus without permission of the College. Similarly, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are subject to restrictions based on a 2011 memo regarding places of worship, schools and hospitals

  Issue a statement in support of undocumented students

  Create a page on the school website and GrinnellShare that is dedicated to providing resources for undocumented students on campus;

  Immediately release and disseminate a clear and transparent plan of action so that students who are verbally or physically assaulted by College community members, residents of the town of Grinnell, or any other person on or near the College campus will know how to report it and receive proper institutional support from the College;

  Hire a mental health professional who has cultural competency in working with politically marginalized communities and trauma-related issues of familial separation and the chronic threat of deportation;

  Actively work with local churches and other religious institutions to ensure a network of sanctuary churches that provide a refuge for students facing deportation proceedings;

  Significantly increase the percentage of tenured faculty of color, specifically those teaching courses in interdisciplinary programs, such as American Studies and/or Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies (GWSS) departments. Courses added should engage with the undocumented experience in a way that does not place the burden of instruction on undocumented students.

This is not a moment when we can afford silence. We need action now. As Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel famously stated, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” If we do nothing when Trump becomes President, then any stated commitments to diversity, social justice and inclusion Grinnell has made will prove themselves useless. This is not a moment when we can afford silence. We need action now, and we will be following up diligently with Grinnell community members, including students, faculty, alumni and you, the administration and Board of Trustees.

                Awaiting your action,

Concerned Grinnell College community members

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