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College releases sanctuary campus policies amid national DACA debate

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A few days before President Donald Trump announced his decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months pending an action from Congress, President Valerie Smith released Swarthmore’s Sanctuary Campus Working Group Report in an email to the campus. The report delineates steps the college has taken and plans to take to solidify its commitment to its sanctuary campus status.

The report was crafted by a coalition of students, administrators, and professors that convened this past spring after the college announced its decision to be a sanctuary campus in December. According to the report, the goals of the group included “advising President Smith and staff by recommending resources, policies, and services to support undocumented and DACA students at Swarthmore College.”

Yasmeen Namazie ’19 was one of the students in the Working Group. Along with other members, Namazie researched initiatives in the Philadelphia area designed to aid undocumented people.

“After conducting that research, we looked at how those programs could be integrated into the Swarthmore community, keeping in mind community sensitivities,” Namazie said.

Based on this methodology, the report establishes ten “high-priority” recommendations identified for immediate action. These recommendations include: forming a uniform approach to requests for information by law enforcement, connecting DACA and undocumented students with attorneys and potential employers willing to sponsor green cards, and working to establish pathways for citizenship post-graduation from the college.

With regard to requests for information by law enforcement, the group report officially establishes Public Safety as the first point of contact for the police and other law enforcement agencies. Director of Public Safety Mike Hill clarified that this is not a new policy but rather an explication of the general practice.

Typically, Public Safety has been the initial point of contact for law enforcement agencies. We work closely with Swarthmore Borough Police Department and other emergency responders to ensure the safety of our community,” Hill wrote in an email. “This has been a long-standing practice, but as part of the Sanctuary Campus Working Group we reviewed all relevant policies and protocols to make sure they align with our institutional commitments. We also wanted to be sure to communicate this policy broadly so that all members of the community would be aware of it.”

The working group report also presents some allocation of funds to provide for sanctuary campus measures. It states that the Dean’s Discretionary Fund has been expanded, and there has also been a “small increase in budget” for the Office of International Student Services. However, the exact amounts are not stated.

Mirayda Martinez ’20 is a Philip Evans Scholar and a DACA student affected by the sanctuary campus policies. Martinez was initially uncertain about Swarthmore’s commitment to the cause.

“I was kind of skeptical when Swarthmore first announced it was a sanctuary campus because I felt like they were just doing whatever other colleges [and] universities like Pomona were doing. I don’t think they really had an idea of what was needed to support/protect us not just physically, but academically and emotionally,” Martinez said.

However, Martinez is optimistic about some of the steps listed in the report.

“I think one of the main benefits is providing us with attorneys who are willing and able to help us through a lot of our questions and concerns,” Martinez said. “I like that …  they provided us with funds to renew our DACA [status] but didn’t like how long the process took since you only have a certain period of time to submit your renewal documents.”

Martinez was also complimentary of the school’s efforts since the national news about DACA.  

“I know that they are currently trying to pass something at Swarthmore that would help DACA students financially after their work permits expire and work study becomes no longer available, but there isn’t much I can share on that since it’s still in the works. I think that’s also something that Swarthmore is trying to do well,” she said.

Since the report was released on Aug. 31 and the Trump administration’s decision on DACA was announced on Sept. 5, Martinez would like to see the report updated to reflect this change.

“I … think they should update the report now that DACA has been rescinded to reflect the current climate surrounding DACA and the resources available to students,” Martinez said.

Martinez emphasized the importance of emotional support for students.

“In terms of what needs to be done, I think they just need to ensure that all of the DACA [and] undocumented students are feeling welcome and safe on campus.That’s the main priority, checking in with them.”

In its “further questions and final thoughts” section, the working group report emphasizes intersectionality.

“We conclude by observing that although our working group’s charge focuses primarily on how the school can support DACA and undocumented students, no student is simply described or characterized by any single designation … whatever it means to be a sanctuary campus, it must mean recognizing all of the intersectional factors influencing our DACA and undocumented students, and supporting their ability to be full members of the college community, to the greatest extent we are able,” it reads.

Namazie believes that the Sanctuary Campus Working Group was beneficial in helping the college identify steps for moving forward with the sanctuary campus status.

“I think this group was incredibly successful in that we were able to continue a much needed dialogue between students and faculty regarding the urgency of sanctuary campus status; it also reaffirmed the administration’s standing commitment to student safety and security amidst a political climate fraught with instability,” Namazie said.

As of publication of this article, senior democrat leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer reached an agreement with President Trump to protect dreamers, although no legislation has yet been brought to a vote.

CLICK HERE to read the full 27-page report

Public Policy Program to End in 2016

in Around Campus/Around Higher Education/News by

After over a quarter of a century in existence, the Public Policy Program will no longer be available to students at the end of the Spring 2016 semester, college officials announced to those involved with the program this past break. Current Public Policy minors were notified of the decision via email last Monday.

Interdisciplinary minor and major programs — such as Public Policy, Environmental Studies, and Islamic Studies — are subject to a College review every five to eight years. These reviews are comprised of surveys of alumni who participated in the program, currently enrolled students, and involved faculty members. This review is subsequently analyzed by the Curriculum Committee, which determines whether or not it believes students’ educational needs are being met and the college’s educational philosophy upheld.

The Public Policy academic program underwent a scheduled review during the 2010-11 school year. During this time, the committee ascertained that many of the classes had integrated policy roles into their curriculum. They found that the policy elements of many economics and political science classes had begun to overlap within their respective courses of study, said Provost Tom Stephenson, whose office oversees the committee. “It had become redundant,” said Stephenson. These redundancies were further exacerbated by the fact that the overwhelming majority of classes available to confer credit toward the minor are from the Economics and Political Science departments. In lieu of these findings the program was given a two-year extension with another review when that time was up. As Professor John Caskey, coordinator of the program, put it, “We were almost on probation.”

This past semester, the Public Policy program faced the follow-up review previously ordained by the Curriculum Committee. The results demonstrated that the issue of redundancy had not been sufficiently resolved. According to Stephenson, the decision to end the formal program came down to how the College allocates its resources. With respect to the reviews from 2010 and 2012, the committee thought that the “administrative overhead to keep a formal minor could be put to better uses,” said Stephenson.
Prevailing Public Policy minors need not fear, however, as the program will remain unchanged for the classes of 2013 and 2014.  According to the program website, the minor currently requires a total of at least six credits spanning the areas of economic, political, and quantitative analysis, an internship that is generally completed between junior and senior year, and a senior thesis. These requirements are expected to change for the classes of 2015 and 2016, who will still be able to minor. According to Caskey, there will likely not be a thesis requirement. Nevertheless, the paid internship opportunities will continue to be available even after the program’s termination, as well as all of the core classes, such as Health Economics, Public Economics, and Environmental Politics.

The Provost’s Office has record of Public Policy existing since at least 1985, making it one of the older interdisciplinary programs at the College. Although popularity has fluctuated over the years, interest has been high in the most recent years: there were fifteen minors in the class of 2012 — a fairly large number as far as interdisciplinary minors go, according to Stephenson — and there are eight in the class of 2013.

Reaction to the news has seen little controversy. Senior Meera Oak, a Public Policy minor, said that the end of the program was “a little disappointing,” but that future students will not miss out on too much as they will still be able to take all of the classes involved and will have many of the same internship opportunities. However, according to Oak, the cancellation of the senior thesis will perhaps be a big loss for future students. The thesis offered a solid platform for students to think about and address any policy issues that they cared about without the academic constraints of any specific discipline.

“If anything it’s the only thing that will be lacking,” she said. Nevertheless, those involved with the program seem to understand the verdict.

“Everyone is a little bit sad with the decision, because this is a good program,” said Caskey, “but it was a matter of College priority.”

Photo courtesy of swarthmore.edu.

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