Dear Knox Community,
Last week’s federal actions have significant implications for members of our community and for colleges and universities across the country. Some of these actions could have direct impacts on students who have been granted protections under DACA—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—and on citizens of other countries, particularly the seven specific countries identified in the action. While implementation details are unclear and legal challenges have already been filed, these actions have the potential of violating Knox College’s long-standing commitment to the open exchange of ideas in an international community that values all of its members, regardless of their national origin or immigration status.
Nationwide, and at Knox, there have been calls to declare campuses as sanctuaries. I recognize the urgency behind these concerns and, therefore, my priority is on the actions we take rather than on the label we attach to our actions. On behalf of the College, I restate our commitment to do everything in our power to protect members of our campus community who may be vulnerable as a result of their immigration status.
• Knox College does not share information regarding a student’s immigration status unless required by law or as authorized by the student, continuing our long-standing compliance with federal and state student privacy laws.
• We do not voluntarily enter into agreements with federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law, except as required by law.
• We do not allow immigration officials, or other law enforcement personnel authorized to enforce immigration laws, into our campus buildings or assist them in investigating or detaining undocumented students unless we are required to do so by law.
• Campus Safety officers are here to protect our students and the College community, and do not contact or question an individual solely on the basis of suspected immigration status or to discover their immigration status.
• Colleges and universities—like medical centers and religious sites—have been deemed “sensitive locations,” meaning that immigration authorities have been generally instructed not to conduct enforcement activities in these places without permission unless national security is threatened or some other exigent circumstance exists. We will advocate for the continued extension of this provision.
• We continue our long-standing practice of admitting students without regard to national origin or their immigration status. Once admitted, the College does everything we can to ensure that all students have access to the educational opportunities they deserve through our financial aid and other policies.
• Last year’s Commencement speaker, Senator Dick Durbin, along with both Republican and Democratic co-sponsors in the House and Senate, recently introduced the BRIDGE Act to extend protections under DACA. Last November, I signed a statement in support of the DACA program along with more than 600 college presidents, and I urge you to join me in communicating with your elected representatives if you wish to support the BRIDGE Act.
• We will continue to work with immigration attorneys and advocacy organizations to determine how best to support our community members.
All of these actions are consistent with the College’s historic and contemporary commitments to social justice. We graduated our first international student in 1870, Fahmy Yahny from Sierra Leone, and, today, Knox is not just an intellectually rich and vibrant learning community—it is one of the most diverse and most international liberal arts colleges in the country.
Finally, let me offer a personal reflection. Just yesterday, I returned from the annual meeting of the Association of American College & Universities. Much of the meeting was spent discussing the very issues about which I’m writing to you today. I will continue to communicate with other college presidents and our elected officials about these issues and to advocate on behalf of all members of our community who are affected. These are matters of significant importance to me personally and as president of Knox College. Some of you may know that my mother was an immigrant from Brazil to the United States and that I spent my childhood years abroad. I came to this diverse academic community because of its welcoming and inclusive promise, and I pledge to ensure that our College remains a welcoming and inclusive academic community that educates leaders for a changing world. I will keep you posted on any new developments in the coming days and weeks.