As I stated in early November, I am deeply concerned about the anxiety and unrest across our nation, in our state and about its impact on our campus life and especially our students. I have been to almost all of our campuses since then and have heard first-hand about the fear certain student populations are experiencing due to their race, religion, sexual orientation and because of their immigration status. I have heard concerns from our DACA and other undocumented students, who feel particularly vulnerable and scared about what lies ahead for them and their families.
I want to repeat what I have said since I became your president–at CSCU we are strong because of our diversity. Our campuses thrive when people from different races, ages, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender expressions, nationalities, physical abilities and political perspectives have a forum for sharing their beliefs and ideas while learning together. This is a critical value of higher education. I also want to reaffirm that at CSCU we are committed to social justice, to celebrating our diversity, and fostering a climate of inclusion and respect for one another.
Since early November, when it became apparent that our undocumented students faced potential risk, I worked with campus leadership, outside legal counsel, and national immigration attorneys to understand all options and gather the necessary information to make an informed set of decisions about the best path forward. There is a lot of dialogue around the concept of “sanctuary” campuses. We are engaged in the due diligence necessary to understand the impact of such a designation and whether it is appropriate for our system and all of our 85,000 students.
To be very clear, we will continue to unequivocally support our undocumented students and provide whatever legal or other services we can during this uncertain time. Recently, I signed a letter of support for the DACA program along with over 600 college and university presidents including many of my colleagues in Connecticut.
I have always talked openly and honestly to all of our students and I intend to do so on this issue. I will continue to provide updates as they arise. I would encourage everyone in the CSCU system who supports our dedicated and deserving students to reach out to our Congressional delegation, our faith leaders, and those in the business community who see the value in educating and employing students to express support for the DACA program. Information about the program should be provided on all of our campuses for students and our surrounding communities.
As your president, I will continue to be a voice for all of our students and especially for those that are most vulnerable. My support for DACA and the students we are educating under this program will continue to be unwavering. I will stay in regular communication with our campuses as more information becomes available.
Mark E. Ojakian is President of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities