In a recent campus-wide email, university president Rev. John P. Fitzgibbons, SJ publicly rejected a student-led petition to declare Regis a “sanctuary campus,” though he re-affirmed the university’s commitment to ensuring the safety of the entire Regis community, especially its undocumented and international students.
The petition, which garnered just over 500 student signatures, was organized by the Union of Student Activists (USA), a new campus organization which grew out of the petition effort. Somos (Regis’ Latinx student group) and RUSGA’s Social Justice and Spirituality Committee endorsed the union.
“None of us were particularly surprised,” freshman Courtney Huston, an organizer for USA, told the Highlander about the group’s reaction to the administration’s reply, “It was pretty much what it sounded like we were going to get from our conversations with the provost and the Office of the President.”
Houston also conveyed that while she was thankful for Father Fitzgibbons’ reaffirmation of the university’s commitment to Jesuit values, she and other students were deeply disappointed that the university president did not promise any new action on the issue.
However, Huston expressed hope for future dialogue, saying, “It’s just the beginning. We’re still talking to the Office of the Provost and the president, and as a collective body of concerned students, we’re definitely still discussing ways we can make our campus safer for our undocumented and DACA students.”
Despite its similarity to the term sanctuary city, which implies a specific set of policies, the label “sanctuary campus” does not yet have a clear standard definition. When asked to clarify what her vision of a sanctuary campus looks like, Huston said that a major component would be to provide “physical sanctuary” to any Regis students or members of the local community who feel threatened by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which handles border control and immigration law.
Such action would be unlawful, and could bring with it legal and financial sanctions, such as the revocation of federal funding for financial aid or research grants – a point noted in the Office of the President’s statement. When asked whether USA and the other signatory groups had considered the implications of their proposed policies before submitting the petition, Huston said that they had, but was largely dismissive of the criticism, and claimed that it was more important to let the surrounding community know that Regis “is a safe place.”
Hundreds of Regis students rely on federal grants and loans in order to afford attending the university and could be forced to transfer or drop out should the federal administration revoke aid funding. When pressed about the financial implications for these students, Huston said, “We’re not fighting for some other, we’re fighting for one of us.”
Ford Mulligan Staff Reporter