University President Claire E. Sterk reaffirmed Emory’s prior commitment to supporting its undocumented students but will not label the University as a sanctuary campus in response to an Emory Sanctuary Coalition letter calling for Emory to adopt such a designation.
Sterk’s Jan. 31 response to the Coalition — a group of students, faculty and alumni — came almost two weeks after the group sent her the letter requesting the designation and for the school to enact three policies that would demonstrate its commitment to its undocumented students.
The term “sanctuary campus” remains undefined, Sterk wrote in her response, noting that such a designation “lacks substantive meaning for policy and practice.”
Sterk acknowledged that the University’s reluctance to declare itself a sanctuary campus has been a “point of contention” among community members, and wrote that the interpretation of the term varies nationwide.
Such a declaration “could have the collateral effect of reducing funding for teaching, education and research, directly harming our students, patients and the beneficiaries of our research,” she wrote.
The University president reiterated that Emory would obey all federal and state laws in its efforts to support its undocumented students, and that student records containing private information would not be shared without a subpoena.
Sterk thanked the Coalition for its advocacy for undocumented students.
Before Sterk responded to the Coalition’s Jan. 18 letter, posters calling f0r her response appeared across campus. The posters included a copy of the letter adjacent to a photo of Sterk holding a sign that read, “I’m an unafraid educator with and for undocumented students.”
The Coalition requested that Emory pledge lawful non-cooperation with federal immigration authorities, admit all academically qualified undocumented students regardless of their social status and guarantee support for undocumented students and students from mixed-status families.
The Coalition had expressed dissatisfaction at Sterk and University administration’s Jan. 18 refusal to declare Emory a sanctuary campus despite a Nov. 21 petition signed by more than 1,500 community members. After receiving the petition, Emory administration developed a Progress Report outlining initiatives to provide legal and administrative support and resources to undocumented students, in addition to financial aid and University-wide dialogues on the topic.
Coalition members did not respond to requests for comment. The Wheel confirmed that Executive Administrative Assistant Dan Tucker sent Sterk’s response on behalf of the Office of the President via email Jan. 31 at 5:16 p.m. The Coalition had not responded directly to Sterk’s Jan. 31 email as of Thursday night, according to Seideman.
The Coalition plans to host a campus-wide walkout during Sterk’s Feb. 8 presidential inauguration to urge Sterk to declare Emory a sanctuary campus.