Jenkins will not declare University a ‘sanctuary campus’
Courtney Becker | Thursday, February 16, 2017
It was announced at student senate Wednesday that University President Fr. John Jenkins sent a letter to the members of the faculty senate Feb. 7 informing them he will not declare Notre Dame a sanctuary campus at this time.
Jenkins said in the letter — which he sent in response to a resolution from faculty senate asking that the University be declared a sanctuary campus — that he is concerned declaring the University would give students a false impression of the weight the term carries.
“While the senate no doubt recognizes that the practical import of declaring Notre Dame a sanctuary campus is limited, the resolution affirms that the term ‘carries considerable symbolic weight,’” he said in the letter. “I appreciate this point, but am concerned that such a declaration may give our students a false sense of security.”
According to the letter, Jenkins’ concerns stem from the University’s duty to “comply with the law,” potentially conflicting with any promises the students could interpret from the declaration.
“The senate’s resolution itself recognizes that while the term ‘sanctuary’ could be understood as a place ‘free from civil intrusion,’ the University must comply with subpoenas, court orders and warrants,” he said in the letter. “We do not now, and would not, voluntarily provide information about any student without a clear legal requirement to do so, but we would comply with the law and so cannot promise a campus entirely ‘free from civil intrusion.’ I do not want to appear to make our students a promise on which we can not deliver.”
Jenkins also said he was concerned about potential action against Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students at Notre Dame if the campus were declared a sanctuary campus.
“I am also mindful that a public declaration of our campus as a sanctuary campus could unnecessarily draw attention to these vulnerable students and provoke a reaction from authorities that we might otherwise avoid,” he said. “ … Key members of the administration have either signaled or said that there are no plans to act aggressively against those with DACA status, and at this point, it is perhaps best to monitor the situation.”
After Jenkins released his letter, the Notre Dame College Republicans said they were supportive of his decision.
“We are very pleased with Fr. Jenkins’ decision to not make Notre Dame a sanctuary campus,” senior Kevin Burke, College Republicans secretary, said on behalf of the club in an email. “The rule of law is an important and necessary part of American society and we applaud Fr. Jenkins on his decision.”
The Notre Dame College Democrats said they were disappointed in Jenkins’ decision. Senior Andrew Gallo, co-president of the College Democrats, said the club had hoped Jenkins would a step to provide any extra protection available to DACA students at Notre Dame.
“We think that as a Catholic university and a university of our stature that we are in a tradition of welcoming refugees and welcoming those who need it and those who are cast aside,” he said. “And so in light of the new administration and the new policies regarding immigration and refugees, it’s really disappointing to see that Fr. Jenkins will not designate us a sanctuary campus — that he will not provide these basic and necessary protections that we think are so essential for many members here in our community.”
Despite his decision to not declare Notre Dame a Sanctuary Campus, Jenkins assured the Faculty Senate his commitment to DACA students at Notre Dame remained unchanged and said the University would continue to support them.
“ … I also met privately with a number of our DACA students to listen to their concerns and assure them of the University’s support,” he said. “There are a number of our University colleagues who are doing superb work in providing day-to-day assistance and guidance to these students during this difficult time, and I can assure you, we will continue to provide the University resources necessary to do so.”
Student senate additionally discussed potential executive cabinet restructuring that would cut the number of members from 22 to 17, passed an amendment to the constitution that will restructure the Shirt Enrichment Endowment to put the profits from The Shirt Project to better use and incentives for students to live on campus for their senior years during its meeting.