President Stephens responds to the MHC #SanctuaryCampus walkout

Photo by Emily Tarantini '18   President Sonya Stephens listens to protesters' demands during the MHC #SanctuaryCampus walkout on Nov. 16. 

Photo by Emily Tarantini '18 

President Sonya Stephens listens to protesters' demands during the MHC #SanctuaryCampus walkout on Nov. 16. 


Colleges around the country have started investigating further into their status as as sanctuary campuses in the wake of the election. Mount Holyoke is no exception; a walk-out on Nov. 16 was organized surrounding the issue and advocating for the administration to take action.

    Since the walk out, Mount Holyoke College Acting President Sonya Stephens has discussed the school’s position in a campus wide email and a letter to the editor published in The New York Times.

    Stephen’s email was sent to all members of the college community on Nov. 21. Stephens discussed the nature of the walk-out in this email: “over 200 students protested on November 16, presenting me with a petition that makes specific demands to protect those international and undocumented students who may lose legal protections for their immigration status.”

    She also cited a petition that circulated around the community--the petition “respectfully recommend[s] that the College declare itself a ‘sanctuary center of higher education.’” The petition consists of over 1,500 signatures, the majority consisting of alumnae signatures. Stephens included the break-down in her email: “63.2 percent alumnae, 27.5 percent students, 9.3 percent faculty/staff.”

    In the email, Stephens assures that she “will formally respond to the petitions very soon.” A statement has not yet been published, but Stephens emphasized the fact that she is supporting the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA allows certain undocumented immigrants who enter the country as minors a two-year period of deferred deportation.

    The letter, signed by 441 university leaders, including President Stephens, states: “DACA beneficiaries on our campuses have been exemplary student scholars and student leaders, working across campus and in the community. With DACA, our students and alumni have been able to pursue opportunities in business, education, high tech, and the nonprofit sector.”

    The letter continues, “the [students] have gone to medical school, law school, and graduate schools in numerous disciplines. They are actively contributing to their local communities and economies.”

    In Stephen’s letter to the editor, she writes about the importance of international education. The letter was published alongside a series of letters in response to The New York Times article titled ‘Is It Safe?’ Foreign Students Consider College in Donald "Trump’s U.S.”  Stephen’s letter assured, “Mount Holyoke College graduated its first international student in 1841 and, like other colleges and universities, continues to provide a safe, welcoming and supportive environment for students from around the world to live and learn together.”