Union professors support sanctuary campus, undocumented students


UConn students and faculty gather in front of Wilbur Cross to show their support for marginalized students during the Rally for the People on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. The UConn branch of the AAUP voted endorse a community petition to support undocumented students. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut Chapter of the American Association for University Professors voted to endorse a community petition in support of undocumented students, according to a statement by Internal Organizer Christopher Henderson.

The petition, “Protect Undocumented Members of the UConn Community,” requested that the university become a sanctuary campus by publicly refusing to cooperate with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement efforts to locate, detain and deport undocumented immigrants. Additionally, it demands that UConn provides enhanced mental health, financial aid and academic services to undocumented students and offer deported students the option to complete their degree online or have their tuition refunded.

Calling for UConn’s administration to protect human rights and develop a process to make UConn a sanctuary campus is part of the AAUP’s post-election pledge to oppose discrimination and fight for a equitable and welcoming education environment, said Michael Bailey, executive director of the UConn-AAUP.

“The responsibility of the AAUP is to protect benefits and pay of faculty members, but also to support the community in general,” Bailey said. “We’re really concerned about discrimination, so obviously that is important to us and we want to make sure that none of the students are harrased or bullied or intimidated.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had 925 signatures, according to co-creator Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, a professor of biology and director of El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbbean, and Latin American Studies at UConn.

Overmyer-Velázquez said he believes the timing of President Susan Herbst’s university-wide statement, “Supporting Undocumented Students at UConn,” was influenced by the petition, but that it was students who led the charge.

“The work toward President Herbst’ statement today started and continues with UConn’s courageous undocumented students who raised these urgent concerns and moved members of our university community to action,” Overmyer-Velázquez said. “I’m very grateful to the president for having supported their efforts and making a very strong and positive statement on their behalf.”

Herbst’s statement either met or provided a reasonable alternative for all seven points of the petition, Overmyer-Velázquez said. UConn still needs to seek legislative approval in order to make financial aid available to undocumented students, however.

“We still have much to do to support our undocumented students and all our community that are afraid for their security in the wake of the recent Presidential election. My colleagues and I will continue our collaboration and solidarity with them to protect their rights and support education for all at UConn.”

UConn needs to include supporting institutional aid for undocumented students on its legislative agenda if it’s going to effectively lobby for this change, said Eric Cruz López, a fifth-semester student and local organizer for Connecticut Students for a Dream.

“UConn does not physically testify at any of the public hearings for institutional aid for undocumented students. UConn submits a paragraph long written testimony,” López said. “That is the only engagement that we get from the University of Connecticut throughout the whole course.”

Kimberly Armstrong is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.armstrong@uconn.edu.

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