January 06, 2017

SIU will not adopt sanctuary campus designation

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University System President Randy Dunn today (Jan. 6) announced that none of SIU’s three locations -- Carbondale, Edwardsville and the School of Medicine in Springfield -- will be designated a sanctuary campus.

SIU Carbondale’s Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate and Professional Student Council sent a letter to Dunn and Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell in December requesting the sanctuary campus declaration to protect undocumented students. Dunn indicated that together with the campus chancellors and other officials, staff would review potential policy and legal considerations, noting also that any decision would apply system-wide.

Dunn said that review concluded that the concept of a sanctuary campus is not clearly defined in any legal sense, adding that the designation suggests that the university would be willing to violate the law. Doing so would put SIU and all of its students at risk, including the potential loss of federal financial aid.

“At the same time, there are key principles that we believe are important during this uncertain period,” Dunn said. “We will continue to do everything we can within the scope of established law to support our students. And we take our responsibility to protect student privacy under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) very seriously. SIU is committed to an inclusive, welcoming environment in which all of our students can continue progress toward their degrees and graduate on time.”

The issue caught fire on campuses across the country following Donald Trump’s election as president. During the campaign, Trump promised to deport as many as 3 million immigrants who have criminal records or who are living in the country illegally. That prompted concerns about undocumented students attending college under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Created in 2012 through an executive order by President Obama, the program gives young undocumented immigrants protection from deportation and a work permit. The program expires after two years, subject to renewal.

SIU enrolls fewer than 60 DACA students among its system-wide enrollment of more than 30,000.

Dunn, Colwell and SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook are among the nearly 600 university leaders nationally who have signed a letter calling for the continuation of DACA.

"The SIU campuses have been trusted destinations for all of our students and we maintain an enduring commitment to providing access to students traditionally underrepresented in higher education," Dunn said.


(For more information: Contact John Charles, the SIU System’s executive director for governmental and public affairs, at 217/545-8080.)