Dear President Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Drell, We write on two matters of immediate concern—the situation of undocumented students, and of community members now subject to the so-called “Muslim Ban.” Both these groups are now severely affected by measures that tear at the fabric of our community and run counter to our core principles. They also bespeak a callous disregard for the Constitution and international law.
We commend the Stanford administration for its swift response to President Trump’s remarks during the presidential campaign and since taking office, its commitment to defend DACA, and its declaration of support for these students. We call on the University to issue a more substantial statement that recognizes the danger many community members face at this moment, enumerates positive actions it will take with that recognition in mind, and also elaborates more fully how these actions are consistent with specific values to which Stanford is and has always been deeply committed.
Stanford’s statement of November 19th contains many good things— it states that “Stanford will continue to provide services and support to our students without regard to their immigration status. The university supports the ability of undocumented students to continue their studies at Stanford and earn a degree.” It also says that “The university does not act as an immigration enforcement agency. It does not collect or share information about whether students are undocumented (nor does it disclose the ethnicity or religion of individual students). And it would not provide information to law enforcement authorities about the immigration status of individuals except in specific instances in which it is legally required.” This language assures us that Stanford will continue to act as it has done in the past. However, at this urgent and alarming moment, we call on the University to acknowledge the new historical situation that faces us, and the pressing need to be more assertive under these circumstances. Exemplary is a statement made by Fr. Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., President of University of San Francisco, during an interview with CNN: “We will use every legal means to protect [undocumented students].” We do not think we are simply wordsmithing by asking that Stanford adopt a similarly direct tone; on the contrary, we believe that such a tone signals to students and others that we acknowledge the severity of the problem. It is, of course, not just a matter of words but also of actions. Columbia University has put in place specific measures to address likely contingencies, again pledging to serve all students as usual, but also stating in clear terms how the University will respond to potential action by the new Presidential administration:
"If the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) policy is terminated or substantially curtailed and students with DACA status lose the right to work, the University pledges to expand the financial aid and other support we make available to undocumented students, regardless of their immigration status. It is of the utmost importance that federal policies and laws do not derail the education of students whose enrollment at Columbia and other colleges or universities is made possible by DACA... To provide additional support, the Office of University Life is hosting a series of small-group, private information sessions specifically for undocumented students in our community, including DACA recipients, to offer support and guidance regarding possible changes in the law. Affected students can contact the Office directly for more information. Separately, our International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) is scheduling information sessions and is prepared to provide assistance via its telephone helplines to any of our international students with questions or concerns."
Likewise, the University of California issued a statement noting that it would “vigorously protect the privacy and civil rights of the undocumented members of the UC community,” and that, among other things, “The University will not cooperate with any federal effort to create a registry of individuals based on any protected characteristics such as religion, national origin, race or sexual orientation,” and that it will undertake actions that again indicate the breadth and detail of UC’s concern: “UC medical centers will treat all patients without regard to race, religion, national origin, citizenship or other protected characteristics and will vigorously enforce nondiscrimination and privacy laws and policies.” We hope Stanford can issue a statement that advances its initial statement in the manners suggested. It is critical to acknowledge the depth, uniqueness, and urgency of the situation, and Stanford’s commitment to act in ways that acknowledge this.
We are grateful for your swift response to the new Executive Order banning travel to and from certain designated countries. We especially applaud your offering counseling and advising to community members most affected by this terrible measure. We also recognize, as you point out in your response to the recent executive actions, that “National security and counterterrorism considerations are of course vital to effective immigration policy. But the current situation is causing deeply regrettable alarm and uncertainty for many people who are part of the academic community here in the United States.” We hasten to add that this ban is a clear violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. To single out people for protection and/or exclusion based on religion is not only a breach of the values that are central to our university's mission. It is also unconstitutional. To comply with or remain silent on this policy is to imply consent, and such implied consent is something for which history will judge us harshly. The possible illegality of this measure has prompted a federal court judge to issue a stay. Again, Columbia University’s President Lee Bollinger issued a strong statement in acknowledgment of this fact; his letter reads in part:
"As I have said on many occasions, it is critically important that the University, as such, not take stands on ideological or political issues. Yet it is also true that the University, as an institution in the society, must step forward to object when policies and state action conflict with its fundamental values, and especially when they bespeak purposes and a mentality that are at odds with our basic mission."
We ask Stanford to join Columbia and other universities in making clear its moral outrage over these recent actions on the part of Donald Trump’s administration, and to offer specific actions in response. We urge the University to be more precise about how these measures violate specific core values of our academic community—for instance, the right to education, academic freedom, equal treatment under the law, our sense that our educational mission depends on each of our members having equal access to education and freedom from harassment or threat. Only by being more precise, thorough, and more assertive will the full force of Stanford’s commitment to these and other values in these very troubling times be felt. We specifically call on Stanford to bring to bear its vast financial, intellectual, and human resources to protect members of our community who are threatened by the President's actions. We make these calls as collaborators in this effort. Indeed, as members of the Stanford community, we are ready and willing to take action to ensure that Stanford vigorously supports, practices, and defends inclusiveness.
Stanford rightfully prides itself for its openness to the world, its participation in a global community, and our commitment to educate global citizens. We must do everything possible to defend its character against measures that act precisely against that vision and to issue a strong rebuke to these heinous and cruel acts.
We, as members of the Stanford faculty, wish to go on record as expressing, in the strongest terms possible, our unwavering determination to protect our students and the most vulnerable members of our community. We wish to express our condemnation of these measures and our absolute commitment to offering protection, aid, and moral support to those most immediately affected by them. We also express our commitment to continue to speak out against these and any other measures or actions undertaken by the Trump administration that are similarly bigoted, hateful, and cruel.