Last week, the Wheel published an editorial praising Emory’s decision not to designate itself a “sanctuary campus.” This past week, 221 Emory faculty members signed a petition calling for the opposite. Additionally, Emory Sanctuary Coalition organized a walkout, set to take place this morning during President Sterk’s inauguration, in response to her rejection of the “sanctuary campus” title. Regardless, the facts haven’t changed — the “sanctuary campus” designation is still an empty label and adopting it would do more harm than good.
Students and faculty are calling for Emory to adopt this label as a sign of solidarity against discriminatory policies toward undocumented students upheld by both the state of Georgia and President Donald Trump. However, some undocumented students themselves oppose the designation. Though well-intentioned, the petition’s call to adopt a politically charged label devoid of legal meaning may endanger current Emory students and turn the school into a target for Trump’s executive power.
In their petition, faculty members claim the sanctuary designation must be adopted “to uphold Emory as a place of safety in which all of its members can pursue higher learning without the fear of discrimination or persecution.” However, rejecting the sanctuary label does not threaten Emory’s ability to protect its undocumented students; Emory already protects them.
Indeed, it is actually the decision to become a “sanctuary campus” that risks losing Emory’s state funding and jeopardizes the quality of all students’ education, documented and undocumented alike, the very “human right” the petition aims to safeguard.
The faculty petition goes on to equate the current situation to Emory’s stand against segregation more than five decades ago, a misguided and dangerous comparison. Emory produced a petition signed by 250 faculty members opposing the closure of public schools in the wake of federally-mandated public desegregation in 1958 and fought Georgia state laws denying tax exemption to integrated private schools in 1962. While these were concrete actions with powerful ramifications, the “sanctuary campus” moniker is only a hollow symbolic gesture that would subvert the ultimate goals of both the University and its students.
Faculty intervention on behalf of undocumented students is laudable. But the University and President Sterk have already vowed, on multiple occasions, to continue supporting qualified undocumented students. If activists want more protection for undocumented students, Emory’s administration should not be their target.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board.