The University of Michigan has joined dozens of major universities and colleges in urging the federal government to continue and expand a policy that would allow undocumented college students to finish their studies, President Mark Schlissel said Monday.
Speaking at the monthly meeting of the faculty’s Senate Assembly, Schlissel said he has co-signed a letter to the incoming administration that seeks to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.
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The program — one of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration that President-elect Donald Trump has promised to end — protects certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday from deportation.
It is not known how many students at U-M fall under DACA’s provisions because the university does not collect data on student immigration status.
Co-signing the letter is one of several steps U-M is taking to support international and undocumented students, as well as address immigration issues.
University officials will create a working group of faculty, staff and students to “help us track and explore various issues around immigrant status and undocumented-student status on the campus,” Schlissel said.
With the group, the university can continuously explore ways to secure the status of all members of the U-M community, he added.
The university also has placed information online, including resources for students, and has been in contact with international faculty, students and scholars to provide support.
The Rackham Graduate School also hosted a meeting Monday night for international and undocumented students to provide a forum for students and allies to address concerns.
Schlissel said U-M has reached out to other universities as well.
“I think this is an area where organized communal action by the academy is more powerful than the actions of any individual institution,” Schlissel said.
More than 1,400 U-M faculty, staff and students have signed an open letter to Schlissel asking him to work with his peers at other universities to “call for formal guarantees that all students covered by DACA will continue to be protected from deportation or threats of deportation, beyond the expiration date of their current status.”
On Monday, Schlissel thanked the faculty for the letter.
“I think it helped us get on record, and I think it did provide support for our students,” he said.
Since it is not yet known what specifics the Trump administration might put forth to alter immigration policies, Schlissel said university officials will closely monitor the implications of any possible changes, including those that affect DACA students.
Schlissel emphasized that U-M has built an “internationalized” community of teachers and learners that is part of the university’s diversity efforts.
“We’re an international community and everyone’s here on some kind of status,” Schlissel said. “And I think that that is really important for the richness of our community and we’re committed to all the folks here, again, to make them feel included and to have them be treated equitably.”
At the Senate Assembly meeting, Schlissel also spoke about the aftermath of the election at U-M, referencing protests as well as threats and physical assaults that have been reported as ethnic intimidation. He said any physical threat or actual violence against members of the campus community will not be tolerated.
“While I think it’s important for the leader of a great university not to become a partisan politician, it is important that I really feel responsible for speaking up for our communal values as an institution,” Schlissel said. “And diversity, equity and inclusion are central. They’re key enablers of our success.”
The president said it’s critically important in this era to be champions of free speech, but also to encourage people to be respectful of one another when they engage in conversations so that they learn from each other.
“So that’s the challenging balance,” Schlissel said. “How to live in a country with basic guarantees of freedom of speech, which is fundamental to what we do, while at the same time recognizing the absence of civility, and speech filled with hate, shuts off conversation and shuts off learning.”