Chancellor Subbaswamy responds to demands for ‘sanctuary campus’


Protesters gather at the Goodell Lawn on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016 during a walkout to turn UMass into a “sanctuary campus.” (Joshua Murray/Amherst Wire)

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy emailed a statement to the campus community in response to demands for a ‘sanctuary campus’ and immigrant protections at a walkout on Wednesday.

In the email, sent around 3 p.m. Friday, Subbaswamy assured the campus community that the university will do everything within its legal and moral authority to protect students, faculty and staff — whether they be undocumented immigrants, refugees or international students.

“I and my administration are fully committed, as we always have been, to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for every member of our community, regardless of immigration status,” said Subbaswamy in the email.

His response stated the provisions outlined in the petition, delivered to the Whitmore Administration Building by 600 people Wednesday, are already in place on campus. UMass has no intention in weakening those protections in any way, Subbaswamy said.

The email did not, however, clearly label the UMass campus as a sanctuary campus.

It stated that UMass is bound to comply with state and federal law — the enforcement of federal immigration policy is not within the university’s jurisdiction.

Students feel that leaving out the title “sanctuary campus” does not fulfill the campus demands.

“It is not enough. The vice chancellor said that all the points he addressed had the characteristics but he was still not prepared to say that UMass was a sanctuary campus,” said Paxton Reed, a freshman social thought and political economy major. “There is a disconnect there.”

In his statement to the campus community, Subbaswamy listed off the provisions that are in place regarding undocumented immigrants, refugees or international students:

  • “UMass Police Department does not gather information about the citizenship or immigration status of who they interact with.
  • UMass is committed to protecting student confidentiality and not sharing private information about students unless compelled to do so by a court order.
  • There are no plans to discontinue in-state resident tuition for DACA students.
  • They will continue their support structure for students who, in extenuating circumstances, cannot be present on campus, by providing appropriate online degree completion options.
  • They will continue to task the International International Programs Office to serve as a resource for international students and others with concerns related to immigration
  • The Student Legal Office will maintain a privileged attorney/client relationship with everyone who comes to them standing ready to assist students with immigration related issues
  • UMass will work with their community partners to further mobilize support for these initiatives.”

Subbaswamy ended his response with an awareness of the many raised concerns for students safety, and acknowledged the activism he has seen on campus.

“I am acutely aware of the fear for personal safety, well-being and livelihood many in our community are experiencing, particularly those in marginalized groups,” Subbaswamy in the email. “I am heartened by the activism of our students, faculty and staff and join them in their call for everyone to come together to stand against hate and intolerance.”

Subbaswamy states that any acts of hatred and violence toward anyone on our campus will not be tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly and decisively through all available legal and code compliance channels.

Email Caeli at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @Caeli_Chesin.

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