Trump effect: Calls for ‘sanctuary campuses’

Dec 8, 2016

A number of University at Buffalo faculty members recently issued a letter to UB president Satish Tripathi to establish a 'sanctuary' campus' for students, faculty, staff and families.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says many are voicing concern with President-elect Donald Trump's proposals to deport or jail millions of undocumented immigrants.   

Outside the UB North campus in Amherst, NY.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

“I can’t speak for my fellow trustees, but we all our on the page of wanting our students to feel safe, of wanting students to have their voices heard,” stated Marc Cohen, Amherst native, President, SUNY Student Assembly and SUNY Trustee.

Cohen tells us he is working to assure students the current SUNY policy would provide for their safety.

“You know we have a responsibility to call things out when we see them. We have a responsibility to speak up for what we believe in and stand in solidarity with fellow students to ensure no one is being targeted, to ensure that nobody feels unsafe and to ensure that we are living by SUNY’s creed which is to learn, to search and to serve,” Cohen explained.

Students during their first few days of the fall '16 semester on UB's South campus in Buffalo. Many were international students.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

UB boast a large international population of more than 6,000 students, but the University president cannot call for a sanctuary campus. Cohen indicated that would have to come from the SUNY Trustees. He also pointed out there appears to be is no set definition of ‘sanctuary campus’.

“The SUNY Board sets policy and the chancellor has done a phenomenal job of upholding that policy as well as lending input on how we might want to see the direction of the State University of New York go, and now that this term, ‘sanctuary campus’ has come out, people want to know – do you stand in solidarity with ‘sanctuary campuses’ – well what is a ‘sanctuary campus’ – we have to be careful about issuing a blanket support for something that doesn’t have a real definition,” said Cohen.    

A similar request to create a 'sanctuary campus' was also recently issued by a number of faculty members at Canisius College in Buffalo.  Faculty submitted a solidarity letter following three racist incidents on campus, including a black baby doll found in an elevator and hung by a curtain rod on November 8th. The letter was signed by about 55-faculty members.  

Inside a Canisius College classroom.
Credit WBFO News file photo

WBFO News reached out to Canisius for a response. President John Hurley issued a written statement saying the requests by faculty and other members of the campus have been under 'active consideration' before the November incident.  Hurley also wrote the college is committed to improving the level of diversity and inclusion on campus. 

“Most of the requests contained in the letter are items that have been under active consideration prior to the incident on campus on November 8.  A commitment to improving the level of diversity and inclusion on the campus is a key plank of the college’s recently-adopted strategic plan.  The goal is to address these issues in a comprehensive way through initiatives that can be sustainable and can create a culture in which our diversity is truly celebrated.  We welcome the active involvement of the college’s faculty in this process," stated Hurley.