The Five Colleges respond to sanctuary campus demands and protests

Photo courtesy of Redjar/Flickr

Photo courtesy of Redjar/Flickr


Administrators from each of the Five Colleges released their responses to the Sanctuary Campus protests over the last week

Amherst College 

On Nov. 16, hundreds of students gathered to protest President-elect Trump’s immigration policies, as well as to demand that Amherst College take steps to counter them. At the demonstration, students presented a letter addressing their priorities, concerns and questions to College President Biddy Martin, and requested that she respond by Nov. 28.

The College released a preliminary response on Nov. 18, and Martin published a statement on Nov. 20 further explaining the college’s position. The initial response, which is available on the College website, gave 17 specific responses to student concerns, including establishing a commitment to refuse to voluntarily release information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Patrol, a guarantee that neither Amherst College Police nor Amherst Police will enquire about the immigration status of any person, continuing its support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, and maintaining its need-blind admissions policy for undocumented students.

With regard to concerns about ICE presence on campus, the response stated that “Current ICE policy is to limit enforcement actions on college campuses, with very few exceptions. Amherst is an open campus. It would be impossible from a legal and practical standpoint to prevent physical access to ICE.”

In her subsequent statement, which is available on the College website, Martin wrote that “At Amherst, we have an obligation to ensure that all our students are able to take advantage of the educational opportunity we offer without fear for their well-being…. We will do everything we can within the limits of the law to support them and fulfill our promise of educational opportunity." “Harassment, discrimination, and violence threaten the fabric of the nation,” Martin wrote. “On campuses, they make it impossible for those who are targeted to pursue an education free of potential harm. They will not be countenanced at Amherst College.”

Hampshire College 

There have been no protests so far at Hampshire College supporting the College becoming a sanctuary campus, and the College’s handbook does not explicitly address undocumented students, faculty or staff. Hampshire established a scholarship fund in 2012 for undocumented admitted students. According to the College’s website, the fund is intended to support “students who were brought to this country as babies or young children, who have attended U.S. schools, and who wish to continue their educations but are ineligible for federal financial aid.”

Smith College

Following the election of Donald Trump, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney signed a statement released by Pomona College President David Oxtoby supporting the extension and renewal of the DACA policy.

On November 28, according to the College website, McCartney responded to a petition signed by 1,600 Smith students, faculty, staff and alumnae asking the College to become a sanctuary campus. In her statement, McCartney wrote that she “strongly support[s] the spirit of the petition.”

“Within the limits of federal law,” McCartney stated, “we must support every member of our community, including and especially those targeted by anti-immigrant actions.”

McCartney’s statement included commitments to continue College policies that are supportive of immigrants, including maintaining the College’s policy of “not releasing information about students’ citizenship or immigration status unless...compelled to do so,” providing resources to undocumented students, and considering undocumented students for admission in the same manner as other applicants. In addition, McCartney pledged that the college would “not take any voluntary action that would put members of [its] community at risk because of their citizenship or immigration status.”

According to Smith’s website, undocumented students are evaluated for admission in the same way that all other applicants are, and are eligible to receive institutional aid from the College, which meets 100 percent of need for all admittees.

According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz pledged in 2014 that local police would not comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to detain undocumented people unless compelled to do so by a warrant.

University of Massachusetts Amherst 

On Nov. 16, students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst participated in a walk-out in order to demand protections for undocumented students, faculty and staff, as well as the establishment of a sanctuary campus. According to Commonwealth Magazine, over 800 individuals took part.

In a statement given to student activists on Nov. 18, according to Commonwealth Magazine,  UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy wrote that “I and my administration are fully committed, as we always have been, to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for every member of our community, regardless of immigration status…. Please be assured that the protections that are being called for in the petition are in place and that this campus administration is fully committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all of our students, especially those who are most vulnerable in these trying times.”