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Faculty senate calls for sanctuary campus designation of Notre Dame

| Thursday, January 19, 2017

In a special session held Monday evening, the Notre Dame faculty senate passed a resolution calling for University President Fr. John Jenkins to declare Notre Dame a sanctuary campus for undocumented students.

American Studies professor Jason Ruiz, who was part of the group presenting the resolution, said the resolution was “asking for Fr. Jenkins to keep doing what he’s doing.”

“Fr. Jenkins, I think, has taken a national leadership position in terms of supporting and admitting undocumented students,” Ruiz said. “A lot of us who are involved in sort of a larger movement to support undocumented students are really worried about what’s going to happen with the next presidential administration.”

The resolution from the faculty senate joins two other documents — a resolution from the Notre Dame student senate and a petition signed by more than 4,300 students and faculty — calling for Fr. Jenkins to declare Notre Dame a sanctuary campus.

“[Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] (DACA) … is a set of federal protections in place that Notre Dame benefits from, in terms of being open about admitting and giving financial aid to undocumented students,” Ruiz said. “President-elect [Donald] Trump has vowed to terminate DACA, so a lot of us who work on these issues politically [and] professionally are in a serious state of concern and crisis over what we see as the impact of the impending termination of DACA.”

While Fr. Jenkins has not declared Notre Dame a sanctuary campus, Ruiz said University policies currently in place are emblematic of such a campus.

“Personally, I’m more interested in the policies than the terminology [of a sanctuary campus],” Ruiz said. “However, I push for sanctuary because that term has a salience and a political meaning and — for people that are Catholic — a spiritual and traditional meaning for our school as a Catholic institution.

“For me, I pushed sanctuary because it makes a lot of sense for Notre Dame to say we push for sanctuary for the undocumented. The policies, however, that Notre Dame has in place are great, and I’m proud that Fr. Jenkins is already enacting them, and I’m extremely pleased with the fact that [faculty] senate would support them.”

American Studies professor and member of faculty senate Annie Coleman said the debate on the resolution was fruitful.

“It seemed like the senators that were at the meeting were strongly, generally, in support of our students and supporting the general notions of human dignity and justice and freedom and civil rights that this sanctuary movement kind of resonates with,” Coleman said. “Mostly we talked about the specific provisions at the end of the resolution, and what was the best way we could word those to express the support of undocumented students that were at Notre Dame and future undocumented students.”

Coleman said a major goal of the resolution was to craft something that represented the consensus of the faculty.

“I wouldn’t call this a radical document,” Coleman said. “It’s not advocating the breaking of laws, but it is establishing philosophical basis for support of the rights of students in the Notre Dame community and consistent support, no matter what policy changes might happen down the line.”

English and digital humanities librarian Daniel Johnson, who was partially responsible for drafting the resolution, said the authors “stressed transparency and worked hard to strike a balance, signaling support for vulnerable students — both broadly and by way of specific provisions — without flouting the law.”

“In the end, I think the senate feels it has adopted a widely-supported resolution, which, far from defying the university or its administration, encourages the administration to continue developing positions it has already articulated,” Johnson said in an email. “The resolution, in all phases of development, was viewed as a document in alignment with Notre Dame’s principles and traditions.” 

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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall. She most recently served as Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

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