Letter to the Editor from President Jonathan Veitch

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As Faculty Council President Anthony Chase and I reported at the March faculty meeting, the March 10 immigration policy symposium Occidental organized with the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU) was a real success. Nearly 400 people from 44 Southern California colleges and universities, as well as legal experts and representatives of immigrant rights organizations, participated in the daylong event. I’m grateful to all of the Occidental faculty, students and staff whose participation helped us launch a very important conversation about developing best practices, identifying resources and creating an inter-campus network for mutual support.

However, given the uncertain political and legal climate, in some respects the symposium raised more questions than it answered. Our real work, then, is just beginning. Here at Occidental, there is an urgent need to put our guiding principles into action by focusing our efforts on two broad areas.

First, we need to ensure that we have identified resources and contact information for community members with concerns about their or others’ immigration status. Our online resource directory is a good start. One thing the symposium made clear is the need to put student volunteers and faculty with relevant expertise and research skills in touch with local advocacy groups to support their important work. We will also reach out to alumni with legal training to identify who might be willing to provide pro bono legal services.

Second, we need to take steps to ensure that staff in key offices — International Programs, Admissions, Financial Aid and the Registrar — have access to accurate and up-to-date information. We should seek to leverage the collective resources of our emerging intercampus network, including the existing expertise and contacts of immigration advocacy groups, to help us track changes in federal policy. We should better educate the community about the protocols we have in place to protect their privacy rights, and begin to anticipate potential scenarios to improve our ability to respond quickly when necessary. This is another area where we can take advantage of our intercampus network.

Coordination and collaboration among administration, faculty and staff will be important as we move ahead. As the Sanctuary Campus Steering Committee begins to transition to a Multi-Constituency Coordinating Group on Sanctuary Campus, Rhonda Brown, our chief diversity officer, and Danita Maxwell, director of human resources, will join incoming group co-chairs Lisa Sousa, professor of history, and Celestina Castillo, director of the Center for Community-Based Learning, in our collective effort to address the uncertainties we face. There will be continued follow up from this group in the weeks and months ahead.

We invite your participation and input as we work to develop a comprehensive approach to providing support for the Occidental community.

Jonathan Veitch
President, Occidental College