The recent presidential election has left a lot of concern among some members of the faculty and the student body at Calumet College of St. Joseph.
CCSJ President Dr. Dan Lowery, concerned for this issue, stated that the confidentiality and financial commitment of CCSJ with its undocumented students will not change no matter what.
“I know that some of our undocumented students are alarmed at the results of the (presidential) election. We have long committed ourselves as an institution to their confidentiality. This will not change. And we have earmarked substantial financial resources to their education, as well, given their ineligibility for federal and state aid. Again, this will not change,” said Dr. Lowery in a letter directed to CCSJ’s undocumented students on Veterans Day.
Since CCSJ already works on confidentiality and financial aid issues, some members of the faculty are trying is to find out the most available and more realistic options that can expand the protection that CCSJ already provides to undocumented students.
“The idea is to figure out, besides the things that are already being done well, what else is within our power to assure the protection and the well being of our students who are vulnerable to this upcoming political climate,” Assistant Professor of Theology, Dr. Kevin Considine said. “We can’t fix everything, but we need to figure out what else we can do to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our students and live into our Catholic calling and CCSJ’s mission statement.”
At the last Faculty Senate meeting in November, Dr. Considine, joined Dr. Lowery’s letter by voicing out concerns about how undocumented students can be affected by the possible changes of immigration policies.
“Here at CCSJ, we have a lot of undocumented students, and if we are trying to serve the students to their best of our ability and to take our mission seriously, then we have no choice but to figure how it is that we can advocate for the student’s best interest in this kind of political environment,” Dr. Considine said.
Dr. Considine’s intention is to start an effort that would contribute to the protection of undocumented students whose status at CCSJ, and even in the country, can be jeopardized by future hostile political changes to immigration policies.
The plan is for CCSJ to have “sanctuary campus” benefits, or at least that is the proposal that is being currently worked out in senate.
According to Maria Blanco, executive director of the Undocumented Student Legal Services Center, sanctuary campuses are schools that fulfill these three characteristics:
No motion has been approved yet, since members of faculty are still working out the details of the proposal.
One proposal being considered, Considine said, is for CCSJ to partner with local Catholic Church to provide refuge for undocumented students.
“Let’s say, if for some reason, immigration customs is coming down the road, students can be transported to this parish that is a sanctuary parish,” Dr. Considine said.
CCSJ is not the only school working on this issue. The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, which CCSJ is also part of, is working on the protection of undocumented students.
At least one undocumented student at CCSJ expressed some concern about changes to immigration policy with President-elect Trump coming into office.
The Shavings newspaper is not naming the undocumented student.
“It is possible that the new administration of the country will do some changes to immigration policies,” the student said. “I think those hoping for new laws granting residency or temporary legal stay will have a tougher time.”
This undocumented student also stated that it would be something positive and personally beneficial, if an idea like “sanctuary benefits at CCSJ” were put into action.
“It is very heartwarming to know that CCSJ is actively living by its mission statement and more so proving that it is a family – value oriented institution. If I needed to, I would seek protection from CCSJ as a sanctuary campus,” said the undocumented student.
For now, the faculty members who are working on this effort expect to have a revised version of the idea by January, and then vote on it in senate.
Some forums and informal conversations with the student body, and student government are also expected to happen in order to discuss the issue.
“The question right now is how the articulation of the idea comes out. Moving from a good idea to figure out what is it that we are going to say that we are going to do. Can we deliver and how do we do that without making promises that we cannot fulfill,” Considine said.
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