Members of the CSI Community Want to Make CSI a “Sanctuary Campus”
By Clifford Michel
In the wake of President-elect Donald J. Trump’s victory last month, some CSI students and faculty members are advocating for the College to take a stance on issues surrounding immigration.
Several academic departments at CSI have signed onto a letter urging President Fritz to sign a letter supporting the continuation and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows for young undocumented citizens who were brought here in their youth to obtain protection and work permits.
“As CSI faculty, many of us have taught students enrolled in DACA in our courses and can testify to their contributions to CSI as exemplary students and campus leaders,” the letter says. “We urge you to add the College of Staten Island’s name to this growing call for fairness and respect for basic human rights.”
The letter also notes that CUNY’s chancellor, James Milliken, the presidents of 10 other CUNY campuses and 500 other college leaders from across the country have already signed onto the letter.
As of December 14, President Fritz has not signed onto the letter.
A petition has been circulating campus asking President Fritz and CSI’s Provost, Gary Reichard, to designate CSI as a “sanctuary campus.”
Making CSI a sanctuary campus would mean protecting members of the CSI community “from intimidation, unfair investigation, and deportation.”
“Declaring CSI a sanctuary campus would mean that the college will pledge to protect our students, staff, and faculty when they are on campus from deportation, harassment, discrimination, hate speech, targeting by immigration authorities, and/or other forms of identity-based intimidation,” the petition reads.
“This is a concrete action that we can take to demonstrate that the college will defend the rights and safety of our community,” it continues.
The petition currently has a little over 180 signatures on it. Neither Reichard or President Fritz has come out in support of this notion as of December 14.
President Fritz’s Response
William J. Fritz, the College of Staten Island’s President, released a statement on November 15 stating that CSI would grapple with issues surrounding the election and Trump’s rhetoric.
“Last week, our nation elected a new President. The results have been deeply felt by many on our campus, as across the nation,” said in a statement. “Whatever position each of us held in the election, we are all invested in ensuring that CSI remains resolute in its commitment to inclusion and freedom of expression.
“We celebrate our diversity and the vital role that CSI plays in expanding educational opportunity, particularly for immigrants and underrepresented populations.”
President Fritz also touched on the feelings of uncertainty that many portions of the United States’ electorate—including many minorities, immigrants and women—have felt since the election.
“Many students, faculty, and staff feel vulnerable and concerned for themselves, their families, or their friends in the emotional aftermath of the election,” Fritz wrote. “I understand and share these concerns and want us all to work together to keep a civil and open environment on our campus. Our campus has always been a sanctuary and that will continue.
“Thus, I urge you to report immediately any incidents of perceived hostility, intolerance, or intimidation to the Office of Diversity and Compliance.”
In closing, Fritz promised that CSI would hold events to discuss the election further.
“In the next few months, we will be announcing upcoming opportunities for discussion and reflection. I encourage each of you to engage in this important dialogue,” Fritz wrote. “I have confidence that we can learn from each other as we strive to understand the complicated issues before us and move forward together.”