News, On Campus, Top Story

Student Assembly Calls for BC to Become Sanctuary Campus

The Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s (UGBC) Student Assembly (SA) passed two resolutions on Sunday night, one of which endorses a petition by Eradicate BC Racism that calls for BC to take steps to designate itself a sanctuary campus for undocumented students. The other resolution calls for the University to adjust its current process for reporting bias incidents by centralizing a reporting form on the Agora Portal and creating a team of people from different campus organizations that would work on bias incidents.

University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., signed two statements last Tuesday that affirm BC’s commitment to upholding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive action signed by President Barack Obama in 2012 that gives protected status to undocumented students. DACA is threatened in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, who said he plans to repeal several of Obama’s executive orders, which could include DACA, in his first 100 days in office. Eradicate’s petition has 16 total recommendations, and Leahy’s action is one of them. The statements, one from Pomona College and the other from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, do not technically designate BC as a sanctuary campus.  

The first resolution, sponsored by Gianina Chua, MCAS ’18, and cosponsored by Hailey Burgess, MCAS ’19, passed unanimously. The SA’s vote is the latest in a string of events since Eradicate released the petition last Monday, including Leahy’s signing the statements on Tuesday and a rally hosted by Eradicate last Thursday that called for further, more concrete actions from the University.

Eradicate—whose petition has been signed by over 1,700 students, faculty, and staff as of Sunday night—is now calling in particular for Leahy to sign on to an additional statement by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. BC is the only of the 28 American, Jesuit colleges to have not signed it. The statement explicitly commits to “[protecting] to the fullest extent of the law undocumented students on our campuses,” which, according to an analysis posted on Facebook by Eradicate, the other two statements do not do. Chua said in an interview after that she was surprised Leahy had signed the two statements last week, but more surprised that BC was the only school not signed the AJCU statement

Chua said the statements BC has signed do not necessarily protect against potential immigration raids at BC. The resolution says a sanctuary campus could take actions that “include but are not limited to: pledging to keep students’ immigration status confidential, not voluntarily participating in the enforcement of immigration law, and providing pro bono legal counsel.” This ambiguity has caused concern among many members of UGBC.

“This is dealing with fundamental human rights,” Michael Proietta, MCAS ’19, said. “It’s an ethical and to some extent religious imperative to support something like this.”

Raymond Mancini, CSOM ’19, raised the concern that supporting the Eradicate petition could endorse violating federal law, but several members said that the petition does not call for BC to resist requests for lists of undocumented students if the government had a warrant.

“If we don’t approve something like this, that’s an active statement that we do not support those students, or those humans, generally, which is completely contrary to what we stand for as a Jesuit university and a liberal arts university,” Josh Frazier, MCAS ’19, said. “And it’s going to put us at … a disadvantage as people, honestly.”

“This is dealing with fundamental human rights. It’s an ethical and to some extent religious imperative to support something like this.”

—Michael Proietta, MCAS ’19

The bias incident resolution, sponsored by Devin Liu, CSOM ’19, and cosponsored by Chua, notes several instances of prejudice that have occurred on campus and throughout the country recently, and ties them specifically to the divisive rhetoric of the presidential election. Proietta and Mancini were the only two senators to vote against the resolution.

The resolution calls for BC to reinstate the Bias Incident Reporting Team (BIRT), which would be composed of authorities from Human Resources and Student Affairs and groups like the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center. These authorities would be tasked to “competently address concerns,” though the resolution does not explicitly state how.  

The resolution also says that current resources for reporting bias incidents are scattered and convoluted, and says the Division of Student Affairs currently suggests incidents be reported in any way, particularly by emailing Student Affairs or the Office of the Dean of Students (DOS). There is an online bias incident report form through DOS that was shut down soon after its debut last fall after DOS received some inappropriate or unactionable reports. It appears to have since been reinstated, though it is unclear when. There is also a form submitted through the Office of Institutional Diversity, whose website says it is unnecessary if the incident was already reported through DOS, BCPD, or the Office of Residential Life.

The resolution calls for the University to institute an “efficient and united operation” to investigate these incidents, particularly an easily accessible online form, which the resolution suggests should be available on the Agora Portal. That is meant to allow verification of a reporter’s credentials without compromising his or her privacy. Another concern in the past has been academic freedom, as Dean of Students Thomas Mogan said last fall that some professors were worried about how such a system would apply in the classroom.

Proietta expressed concern that the spirit of the resolution could produce a “culture of hypersensitivity” at BC or infringe upon free speech, but Mackenzie Arnold, a member of UGBC’s Free Speech Committee and MCAS ’17, said that would not become an issue.

“This proposal isn’t changing any of the policies that already exist at BC,” Arnold said. “If a student or someone else records something that isn’t actually hate speech … this isn’t going to change that.”

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

December 5, 2016

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Student Assembly Calls for BC to Become Sanctuary Campus”