Last week, We told you about a letter sent to administrators at Decatur’s Emory University asking that the university be turned into a “sanctuary campus” for undocumented students who were admitted to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program set up by President Obama. Those signing the petition were concerned that President-Elect Trump would terminate the DACA program after he was inaugurated, making those students eligible for deportation. The letter drew a response from Emory President Claire E. Sterk, Interim Executive Vice President Stuart Zola, and Ajay Nair, Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life, promising to consider the requests.
The petition drew a mixed reaction. On Monday, Emory’s Student Government Association endorsed the petition by a vote of 26-2, with one abstention, according to a story in the Emory Wheel. Meanwhile, State Rep. Earl Earhart said he would introduce legislation blocking any state funding, potentially including the award of HOPE scholarships to any school that became a sanctuary campus.
One of the nine demands made in the petition asked for “the hiring/training of mental health professionals who have cultural competency in working with trauma-related issues of familial separation and the chronic threat of deportation.” That particular demand drew a response from Provost Ajay Nair, who was quoted in the Wheel article comparing the reaction to the election of Trump to the reaction he saw after the twin towers fell on 9/11, when he was a dean at the University of Virginia.
“It was that state of shock — ‘how could this happen in our country?’ — that loss of innocence that we are maybe more vulnerable to racism and to xenophobia than we thought we actually were,” Nair said. “Americans were sort of targeted on 9/11, and not all Americans felt targeted after the election, but certain members of our community felt uncertain about their future.”
This is not the first time that Dean Nair has called for safe spaces for Emory students. After the incidents last spring when “Trump 2016” was written in chalk at various on-campus locations, Nair wrote an essay for the journal Inside Higher Education, where he said,
The intensity, timing and anonymity of the “Trump 2016” chalking incident produced a tipping point. In the context of a college campus, we thrive on open and civil dialogue, inviting even the most controversial perspectives and remarks. The college setting is a laboratory where students may, for the first time, grapple with such issues. Those conversations by their very nature can be difficult and must take place in a safe environment that is inclusive and guided by mutual respect and civility.
In their original petition, students had asked for a response to their demands by tomorrow, December 2nd. The Wheel article suggests that Emory administrators expect to provide an update in a campus-wide email on Friday.