News, On Campus

UGBC Pursues Free Housing for Those Affected by Travel Ban

On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for three months, halting admission of all refugees for four months, and suspending the Syrian refugee program indefinitely. This past Sunday, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s Student Assembly (SA) unanimously passed a resolution calling on the University to support affected students, faculty, and staff.

“The main point of the agreed upon text was calling on the University to provide free housing to students, faculty, and staff, if applicable, based on the immigration challenges posed by Trump’s executive order,” said Russell Simons, UGBC president and MCAS ’17.

The resolution, sponsored by Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS ’20 and co-sponsored by Michael Proietta, MCAS ’19, also reaffirmed UGBC’s commitment to protecting and advocating for the safety of the diverse identities within BC’s community.

Sheikh said his initial inspiration for drafting the resolution was the protests that erupted across the nation. His parents went to a protest in Dallas, and he was touched by the lawyers who declared that they would volunteer their time for legal counsel. The specific actions that the resolution calls for, however, were a response to University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J.s’ email last week condemning the executive order.

“In his email, he advised students who weren’t nationals, or who were affected by the ban, not to leave the country if they were afraid that they wouldn’t be able to re-enter,” Sheikh said. “But, if he’s telling them not to leave, then where are they going to stay?”

Sheikh continues to acknowledge that during Spring Break and Thanksgiving Break, students are allowed to stay on campus. If Leahy is to give such advice to students, then Sheikh feels that the burden falls on the University to provide housing during Winter and Summer Break.

Sheikh said he knew that any of the other senators in the SA would co-sponsor the resolution with him. But he picked Proietta, a senator in the SA who is known to have a more moderate view than many of his peers in SA, to co-sponsor the resolution to make a point.

“I thought if Michael could co-sponsor the resolution, it would signal that this is an issue greater than different ideologies, it’s about humanity,” Sheikh said.

The logistics of how the University will accommodate students, faculty, and staff who may need housing over Winter and Summer breaks is still an ongoing conversation. While the national conversation revolves around whether the travel ban is a constitutional or legal action by Trump, the conversation on campus is in preparation for a scenario in which the travel ban holds in courts.

“The situation is tumultuous, and nothing is certain about the way it will be resolved or if it’s going to be kept or nixed,” Simons said. “We were talking as if it’s going to remain in place, and we should be acting, as a University community, in accordance with the ban’s original intent, which was to bar immigration.”

Simons said students with individual concerns should reach out to the office of residential life, where they can address concerns on a case by case basis. He added that if students have any concerns about talking with administration, and would rather talk with their peers, they should reach out to him or Meredith McCaffrey, UGBC executive vice president and MCAS ’17, on their personal email accounts.

Sheikh will meet with George Arey, associate vice president of residential life,on Thursday to discuss the logistics of providing free housing.

In the future, Sheikh hopes to pass a resolution that establishes a fund that will help students at BC. Originally, the resolution concerning the “Muslim ban” had included a clause to donate DIP revenue to a third-party organization, but was ultimately deleted due to restrictions on which external organizations UGBC can donate to, as well as how much UGBC can donate.

“I want to make this happen. I believe that this is definitely a burden on the University, as in they have a responsibility to do this,” Sheikh said. “I’m very optimistic.”

Featured Image by Alex Gaynor / Heights Staff

February 9, 2017