Krislov Outlines College Sanctuary Policies

Melissa Harris, Editor-in-Chief

President Marvin Krislov detailed how the College plans to serve its undocumented students in an email sent to students, faculty and staff last Thursday. The announcement follows efforts to make the College a sanctuary campus in anticipation of President-elect Donald Trump enacting draconian immigration-law reforms.

“I have been inspired by this movement,” Krislov wrote. “I honor and recognize the students who have chosen to bring their talents to Oberlin. We will do everything we can to support you as cherished members of our community, in keeping with our fundamental values as an institution.”

Krislov also announced that he recently signed the “Statement in Support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students,” a statement drafted by David Oxtoby, president of Pomona College. Hundreds of college and university presidents from both private and public colleges signed the statement in solidarity.

In light of Trump’s threats to eliminate DACA, increase immigration enforcement and cut federal funding to sanctuary cities, which limit what federal authorities know about their undocumented citizens, schools around the country have jumped on the sanctuary campus bandwagon in resistance.

Krislov’s statement included three steps that the College will take to protect the undocumented community. The first is to admit qualified students regardless of immigration status, while providing financial aid to those students. The statement also committed to refraining from releasing information about immigration status to government agents or allowing them to access campus without a warrant. The statement also promised to identify “resources to promote the successes of all students — including undocumented students.” These resources include referrals to legal experts, transportation assistance, and the guidance and support of the Dean of Students Office and the Multicultural Resource Center.

“It’s just pretty amazing to finally see a result,” said Zurisaday Gutierrez-Avila, College junior and Obies for Undocumented Inclusion co-chair, after Krislov’s announcement. “It’s encouraging to see how Oberlin can come together. I’m pretty satisfied with the statement and I know many people are as well.”

While Krislov voiced support for the sanctuary campus movement, he did not state that the College would officially be a “sanctuary campus.”

“I think it’s necessary to protect undocumented students in whatever ways we can,” College junior Sam Spaccasi said. “That said, I understand why the administration hasn’t formally made an announcement. Under a Trump regime, it may very well be that if we declare ourselves a sanctuary campus, there could be nasty repercussions from Trump’s administration, which would make it harder to protect vulnerable students. I think it’s an issue that needs to be carefully considered, but if it came down to the wire, I would hope that Oberlin makes the choice to become an [official] sanctuary campus.”

Professor of Comparative American Studies and History Shelley Lee said Krislov’s email came out of a series of three key meetings. She and fellow Comparative American Studies Professor Gina Pérez proposed the first meeting right before November’s presidential election out of initial concern for Oberlin’s undocumented community. Although deportation is the main concern for undocumented people, Lee also thinks the College should be aware of the potential for students and professors in science departments to lose Pell and National Science Foundation Grants.

Lee and Perez drafted the original petition to make Oberlin a sanctuary campus, along with Africana Studies Professors RaShelle Peck and Pam Brooks, and Latinx Student Life coordinator Julio Reyes.

After President-elect Trump’s victory, however, Lee said that the sense of urgency increased. A second meeting was scheduled as the sanctuary campus movement took off nationwide. As the College began to sketch a legal framework, it received help from several groups and individuals, including Brooklyn attorney Matthew Covey, OC ’91.

Covey, who said he did not work with the College in any official capacity but does practice immigration law, expressed that he wanted to contribute to the dialogue about what Oberlin would look like as a sanctuary campus.

“Mr. Krislov’s statement is conceptually powerful, and his three bullet points do a good job of addressing three of the most essential issues at stake in this discussion,” Covey wrote in an email to the Review. “As Oberlin works to put this policy into practice, I think it will be crucial to make sure that it covers as many members of the community as possible, that all members of the community understand the limits of the protection (so as not to create false expectations of safety), and that the practical implications of the policy are realized throughout Oberlin’s institutions (from admissions to record keeping to student organizations to relations with Oberlin’s police department).”

Lee highlighted how Krislov’s announcement was a culmination of many people’s hard work. She added that the next step for organizers is to begin coordinating a national strategy among colleges and universities making similar statements in preparation for Trump’s inauguration.