President Hamilton’s April 4th Response, with Comments from NYU Sanctuary

You will find below a response from President Hamilton to our letter dated March 31, 2017. On April 4th, the administration responded to the demands of students working with NYU Sanctuary for a meeting. We are pleased that they have agreed to continue meeting with the student Taskforce Team, which is composed of undergrad and graduate students representing those directly affected by changing federal policies. For more on those demands see the post on our site, here.

Nevertheless, what is clear from President’s Hamilton’s attached response is his continuing refusal to acknowledge the significance of the broad campus-wide support for a declaration of Sanctuary.

We want to make two additional clarifications in regards to President’s Hamilton’s response:

1) The administration’s claim that its current efforts are already “in alignment” with the over 19 demands of the student taskforce team is a misrepresentation of the situation. The “efforts” outlined and linked in the letter are extensions of the university’s status quo efforts of dealing with changing policies’ effects on students on an individual case-by-case basis. By requesting that the administration declare NYU a Sanctuary and meet the demands of students, we are pushing not only for case-by-case solutions but for the implementation of proactive university-wide policies that address a range of issues, from hate speech and preventing ICE access to the university campus under any conditions, to urgent matters of funding and resources for targeted communities.

2) At the close of the letter, President Hamilton’s use of vague language, which suggests that communities who do declare Sanctuary bring greater risk and threat to themselves, fundamentally misconstrues the issues at stake. President Hamilton is making a unilateral decision essentially based on fear. Such a response forecloses other actions, legal or practical, we might wish to pursue in response to unconstitutional, xenophobic and anti-immigrant policies and legislation. We would urge him not to shut down the possibility of declaring NYU a Sanctuary Campus based on the fear of possibly being singled out.

We believe that the declaration of Sanctuary Campus is neither the sole nor ultimate action we must take. But it sends a powerful message and aligns NYU with the many campuses and the dozens of cities that have shown the courage to stand for the greater good of our communities at this time of crisis. In defending New York City as a Sanctuary City, Mayor DeBlasio has stated: “It’s our turn to build a movement, a movement of the majority that believes in respect and dignity for all.”

Our signatories span over 30 departments and 40 centers and organizations at NYU. The Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty Senate and the Student Senate have both passed resolutions calling for NYU to declare itself a Sanctuary Campus. We continue to urge President Hamilton to rethink his unilateral refusal of this issue and listen to the students and faculty, who after all are the most important stakeholders of the university.

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Thank you for your letter of March 31st.

It seems to me — both from your letter, and from my dialogue last week with a group of student supporters of a sanctuary campus declaration — that there are many areas on which our thinking is in alignment. We oppose the recent policy actions on immigrants and undocumented persons. We share the same instinct to safeguard students, faculty, and staff. We wish the world to know our community’s values and our belief in the free movement of people in pursuit of education and research.

It strikes me, too, that the steps the University has taken are likewise in alignment: the commitments we have made to help protect and support immigrant and undocumented members of our community; our participation in legal challenges to recent Executive Orders; our presence in organized, collective opposition by higher education to recent immigration policies; and our efforts to keep our students informed, to name just a few.

In short, like you, I am seeking actions that NYU could take that would deliver greater certainty and security for our fellow community members.

Despite all these areas of agreement, we remain apart about declaring NYU a sanctuary campus. While I understand and respect your passionate commitment to this cause, I continue to believe it would be inadvisable. Such a declaration would not confer upon NYU any special status that would better insulate our campus or our people from being targeted. Worse, it might wrongly give individuals in our campus community a sense of reassurance that we cannot, in fact, uphold, with the consequence it might put them at greater risk, as suggested by recent reports of the authorities targeting undocumented individuals in self-declared sanctuary cities. This is why, I suspect, so few universities have declared themselves sanctuary campuses, and why even within the undocumented community at NYU there is a range of views on this topic.

As you note in your letter, NYU has set out clear, specific policies and actions it will take to protect the undocumented and other immigrants; they are born of concerns that you and I share. I think it would be regrettable if terminology were to divide us when we seem so united on substance.

I look forward to continuing the dialogue.


President Hamilton.