On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump ordered an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which protected people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation.
That same day, Chapman President Daniele Struppa emailed a letter of support to the Chapman community.
“While we have not yet analyzed the impact of (Trump’s) decision, we want to reiterate and assure you that Chapman University stands behind each of its students and employees whose families face challenges due to identity or immigration status,” Struppa wrote.
It’s going to be pretty difficult for Chapman to assess the exact impact of DACA’s repeal, because the university does not keep a list of undocumented students or DACA recipients. In case Chapman is ever subpoenaed, the school doesn’t want to be legally obligated to turn over sensitive information, said Dean of Student Jerry Price.
Usually, information is power. Having a list of undocumented students and “Dreamers” would be beneficial for the university because it would provide a direct place for the university to offer its services. Instead, students have to find the resources available to them on their own, but that’s a small price to pay for confidentiality. In the long run, the university’s decision to not keep a list of undocumented students protects these students more.
Since Struppa became president last fall, emails concerning the political climate on campus have become more frequent. His direct approach of addressing student concerns is something The Panther Editorial Board has commended in the past. In the email about DACA, the goal was to relieve panic and direct students to resources such as Student Psychological Counseling Services. It’s a step in the right direction to support these students, rather than just offering the sentiment.
“Please know, consistent with federal student privacy laws, we will not provide student records of any kind to anyone without student consent or a lawfully issued judicial order. Any outside law enforcement agency that wishes to contact any member of our campus community in regard to immigration status will first be required to produce the appropriate judicial warrants,” Struppa wrote.
Struppa’s email goes further than just support. It’s one thing to just say to students “We support you,” but Struppa goes one step beyond that and offers resources for students and specific points of contact — and his words have helped students.
“When I got the email from President Struppa, it was very comforting. I feel like we are almost nonexistent in the university, yet he addresses us, and it felt really good,” Lidieth Arevalo, a Chapman graduate student and DACA recipient, told The Panther. “This is a big school in a way, but also there’s that connection with students and professors, so I feel really safe in that regard.”
Not only will the university continue to not keep track of its undocumented students, but it is protecting all students’ records until legally required to do otherwise. Other schools have taken this even further. Just days after Trump’s election, Pitzer College declared itself a “sanctuary campus” and is working toward initiatives such as summer financial aid for students who may be unable to leave the country, and even creating programs to support the naturalization of employees who are “lawful, permitted residents.”
We hope that Chapman will continue to look at the repeal of DACA with a sense of urgency, and to look to other university initiatives and stances in order to protect undocumented members of the Chapman community. Regardless of their status as citizens, students at Chapman should have the opportunity to get an education without being concerned about their status to receive it.