Campus Update regarding DACA and Immigration and Travel Ban


President Williams writes to the Muhlenberg community

Thursday, February 2, 2017 03:30 PM

To the Muhlenberg Campus Community:

Like America itself, Muhlenberg is deeply committed to a pluralistic society, to religious freedom, and to respect for human rights that strengthen a democracy as much as a college. This commitment is reflected in our mission statement, our Diversity Strategic Plan, and our growing efforts to enroll the finest students of all backgrounds from across the nation and the world. It is part of our enduring values, symbolized vividly and unambiguously by our red doors.  

Our students exemplified these values themselves on Wednesday evening when they organized and participated in a march and chapel gathering. Diane and I were delighted to participate along with many faculty and staff. The chant, “No hate, no fear, Muslims are welcome here!” was heard throughout the campus and was a powerful reminder (not that one should ever be needed) that our community is, indeed, welcoming of all.

The recent executive order from President Trump barring immigration to the United States, including for already-vetted refugees, from seven predominantly Muslim countries has created considerable confusion. Its full ramifications are unclear, federal offices are still themselves trying to decipher its implications, and federal courts have blocked certain provisions from being implemented. Meanwhile, the administration has suggested that it intends to eliminate or curtail the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). This program protects certain undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors from deportation, grants them work authorization, and enables them to obtain driver's licenses.

I provide this brief summary of this complicated situation as a preface to reaffirming our commitment to ensuring a supportive environment for all members of our community. Muhlenberg College is a place of safety and welcome for all our students, faculty and staff, irrespective of their immigration status or national or ethnic origins.

As new details emerge around the administration’s decisions that impact our students, faculty, or staff, we will share information with you promptly. For now, amid a fluid national discussion, I want to share with our faculty, staff and students—both here on our campus and abroad—steps that the College has taken and is taking based on its mission and values.

  • As I noted in my January 30, 2017 message to our extended Muhlenberg community, the College supports the Association of American Universities' call for an end to the order barring returning students and faculty. We recognize the imperatives of national security, and believe these goals can be achieved while adhering to America’s ideals of nondiscrimination and openness.
  • Previously, in collaboration with college and university presidents from across the country, I encouraged then President-Elect Trump to join with the higher education community in reaffirming the core values of our democratic nation: human decency, equal rights, freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination. We will continue to communicate our commitment to these ideals to the administration and our political representatives.
  • We reaffirm our commitment as a College to sustaining a campus atmosphere of respect, and to prohibiting hate speech, including any that could be directed at immigrant and ethnic and religious minority students, faculty and staff.
  • Muhlenberg College supports all of our students, including those who are undocumented and those under DACA status. All students admitted to Muhlenberg and in good standing, regardless of immigration status, belong at the College and must have an equal opportunity to learn and explore alongside every other student on campus.
  • The College will continue to support the ability of qualified undocumented and DACA students to enroll and sustain their attendance, including doing everything within our power to use institutional funds and scholarships to fill gaps created by federal financial aid policies that exclude undocumented and DACA students from accessing ordinary financial aid and scholarships on equal footing with other students.
  • Unless required by law, the College will not assist immigration and immigration-enforcement authorities in investigative, apprehension, and deportation activities, nor will Campus Safety act on the behalf of such authorities
  • The College will work to protect the privacy of the status of any student, faculty or staff member; and we will, within the limits of the law, challenge requests for this type of information from any source. I should add that the College will also continue to comply with federal laws associated with such operations as student visas, employee hiring, and applications for federal financial aid.
  • Our Campus Safety department does not question anyone regarding their national origin or immigration status and that will remain our practice. 

I also want to provide information about available resources on campus for students, faculty and staff:

  • The College will continue to provide resources to guide and address the concerns of immigrant students, including immigration questions and confidential counseling services. International students who have questions about international travel, visa status, or summer housing should contact
  • Those with questions about study abroad plans should reach out to Dr. Donna Kish-Goodling, Dean of Global Learning, at donnakish-goodling@muhlenberg.edu or 484-664-3841
  • Faculty or staff with questions about immigration status, visas, or travel plans should contact Anne Speck, Vice President for Human Resources at aspeck@muhlenberg.edu 
  • For confidential counseling related to these or other issues, reach out to any of the following:
    • College Chaplain 484-664-3120
    • Jewish Chaplain 484-664-3244
    • Roman Catholic Chaplain  484-664-3122
    • Counseling Services  484-664-3178
    • Health Services  484-664-3199
  • Also, as a reminder, we have a college Hate and Bias Resource team that includes a cross-section of staff, faculty and students trained to provide direct support to any individual(s) affected by a bias incident or hate crime. Contact information for each of them can be found here.

We are fortunate that Muhlenberg is part of a vibrant and diverse Allentown community with almost 20,000 residents who come from countries around the world. In fact, 26 different languages are spoken in the Allentown School District. Several of our local elected officials, including Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Representative Mike Schlossberg ’05, and Representative Charlie Dent have spoken out against the immigration ban, noting its adverse effects on members of the Lehigh Valley. We stand with our neighbors in support of our rich and diverse community.

As a liberal arts college our mission and values call us to engage in civil discourse and debate with rigor and mutual respect. It is these values, not a political position, that Muhlenberg can and must represent. We are committed to the pursuit of knowledge and dedicated to bringing out the full intellectual and personal potential of all our students. We encourage everyone on campus to be informed and to be engaged in the ceaseless creation of our community and national discourse, and to participate fully in the political process. As such, I encourage you to join your fellow students, faculty and staff at the teach-in happening this Friday, February 3, from 2:00-5:00 pm in Seeger’s Union. This is a timely opportunity to learn, dialog, and connect with others around critical issues. 

 

Sincerely,
John I. Williams, Jr.
President
Muhlenberg College
2400 West Chew Street
Allentown, Pennsylvania  18014
484-664-3125

president@muhlenberg.edu