Organizers push for WU to become a sanctuary campus following election
In conjunction with a growing national movement, a group of 30-40 demonstrators took to the Danforth University Center to call on the administration to make Washington University a “sanctuary campus.”
The group—made up mostly of students—met in support of a petition circulated by organizers that calls for the University to adopt a set of policies designed to “make Washington University in St. Louis a sanctuary campus for students, staff and their family members who face deportation or are otherwise made vulnerable by President-elect Donald Trump,” as the petition reads.
The petition, which was delivered to Chancellor Mark Wrighton and Provost Holden Thorp on Friday morning, highlights a 2011 internal memo from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which claims “gives the University a unique opportunity to protect its undocumented community members from law enforcement.”
While the group has yet to craft a final list of specific demands, it is hopeful that measures will be put in place that will obstruct law enforcement from detaining undocumented persons. Members are also working with other college students across the country, who are asking their own administrations to declare their universities sanctuary campuses, to finalize this list of demands.
“A sanctuary campus is a term that’s being used to basically define a sensitive location,” event co-organizer and sophomore Maddie King said. “Basically it puts restrictions on what law enforcement officials can do at those sensitive locations. So that includes they can’t arrest people, they can’t make searches, they can’t perform surveillance unless they have a warrant or there’s serious circumstances such as a suspect being a terrorist.”
While the University has not publicly responded to the group’s petition as of press time, it has released a statement to Student Life clarifying its stance on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act (DACA), which Trump has stated he intends to repeal.
“We do not know what action might be taken by the federal government,” the statement reads. “However, Washington University supports the principles outlined in DACA and will be monitoring this issue very carefully. No matter what changes may be proposed, we will not waver from our core values of inclusion, diversity and equity on behalf of all of our students.”
King noted that the organizers of the event are hopeful that the administration will respond positively to their demands.
“We want them to engage us and invite us to the table about making this protocol, so that our voices can be heard and many diverse communities at Wash. U. can be heard,” she said. “We’re willing to listen to things they have to take into account making these changes. And I think we’re hopeful because there is so much that has been said by the Chancellor and leadership at Wash. U. about making this community diverse and inclusive.”
Despite these hopes, co-organizer and sophomore Radhika Krishna said that she believes Wash. U.’s efforts so far have been subpar.
“This movement is for people who aren’t citizens, but who need this protection because they live here and because they are part of our community,” she said. “Wash. U. for me has not been engaged enough, and it has been really disheartening throughout this process.”
For Krishna, this perceived lack of action may be due to the underlying demographics of the student body at Washington University.
“I think it’s difficult for Wash. U. right now because for example, Rutgers in New Jersey, they have a huge Hispanic population and it affects so many more of their students, and because of that the administration has to pay attention, but in our case it’s not necessarily like that,” she said.
Despite these limitations, King is determined to push the University to revise its policies.
“This isn’t the only event that’s going to happen,” King said. “We’re going to build a bigger group that’s going to be more diverse and reach more people.”