Saint Mary’s students, administrators demonstrate in solidarity with undocumented students
“Can I have an extra one for my car?” College President Jan Cervelli asked a group of students who congregated in Le Mans Hall on Wednesday to hand out signs demonstrating support for undocumented students, as well as support for Saint Mary’s becoming a sanctuary campus.
The demonstration arose as part of a national movement to make all college campuses a sanctuary campus, protecting students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. Movements across the U.S. spoke out against President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promise to rescind DACA, which could lead to the deportation of many undocumented college-aged students who came to the U.S. as children.
Senior Adrienne Whisman, who printed and distributed signs displaying messages such as “Sanctuary for All” and “We support DACA students,” said she felt compelled to remind the Saint Mary’s community of the College’s origins in selfless love and compassion.
“One of the main tenants of Saint Mary’s College is social justice,” Whisman said. “That’s something we’ve been founded on. It’s something that the Sisters of the Holy Cross are very big on, and it’s something that we as Catholics should be very big on.”
According to junior Sam Allen, Saint Mary’s instills values in its students that last long after their time at the College.
“I hope that students are inclusive not just on campus, but even after they graduate, when they go into the real world,” Allen said.
First year Genesis Vasquez said she believes DACA should not be rescinded because the policy helps students stay in school.
“We’re trying to support [DACA students],” she said. “Hopefully DACA can stay within the U.S. and help the students who are undocumented.”
Whisman said it is important to demonstrate support because there are students with DACA status at the College.
“Saint Mary’s has these students, too, and we want to show support for them on our own campus,” she said.
Whisman said she was pleased that Cervelli and other administrators took signs, since it shows the College cares deeply about every student.
“At the end of the day, we are all Belles,” Whisman said. “Our diversity makes us stronger. Raising awareness to the fact that we do have diverse peoples on this campus and we do have vulnerable populations on this campus and showing our support for them can really create a healthier environment moving forward.”
Allen said a good number of people took signs and committed to making undocumented students feel welcome on at the College.
“The student body has seemed very receptive to it, which is really a great thing,” Allen said. “I think it’s a ripple effect. If one person believes this is a good thing and another and another, then soon it will be a campus-wide thing.”
According to Whisman, students should take measures to prevent instances of bullying or discrimination.
“Call out any bigotry,” she said. “Try to educate yourself in what’s appropriate to say and how other people are affected and how other people live their lives. Sort of figure out that even if you don’t feel it, you do have some form of privilege, so try to always be conscious of that.”
Whisman said she hopes the signs foster a sense of unity on campus and demonstrate that all are welcome at Saint Mary’s.
“I think at the end of the day, we need to recognize that this isn’t calling people out,” Whisman said. “This is just getting them to recognize that there are people affected by this who really do need our support. Regardless of who they are or what they identify as, they are still human beings, and therefore, they have the dignity and respect that all human beings are afforded.”
If everyone recognized one another’s common humanity, instead of dwelling on differences, all opinions could be respected, Whisman said.
“It’s something that we as a country as a whole really need to work on because, at the end of the day, we are all Americans, we all do live here, and we all have to live together,” she said. “We need to be able to get along, and we need to be able to understand each other, even if we don’t agree.”
Whisman said she hopes undocumented students understand they are a precious part of the Saint Mary’s community.
“They’re loved, they’re valuable, and if they need anybody, and if they need support, we’re always going to be here,” Whisman said. “We do need to bridge this gap that’s been created politically, socially, racially.”