Kent State: Sanctuary or United?

Photo+courtesy+of+Kent+State+University

Photo courtesy of Kent State University

The future of Kent State as a sanctuary campus is uncertain.

At the Faculty Senate meeting Monday evening, Kent State President Beverly Warren spoke of the university’s current social environment and its resolve to remain vigilant in light of the current political climate.

A petition was created by the Student Power Coalition to make Kent State a sanctuary campus, gathering over 600 signatures.

Students react to KSU’s response to sanctuary petition from KentWired.com on Vimeo.

The petition was in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order on Jan. 27, which banned citizens from seven countries to enter the United States. The order has since been overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court.

“We have long been that sanctuary of support,” Warren said.

However, Warren isn’t convinced that becoming a “sanctuary campus” is in the best interest of the university, due to safety reasons and protecting students.

Warren referred to the President of Harvard Drew Faust’s stance on sanctuary campuses: The act of naming Kent State a sanctuary campus could bring unnecessary attention and safety problems of its own, Warren said.

“The sanctuary status … does not come with any legal status, and there’s no law of additional protection that a campus receives by declaring itself a sanctuary,” Warren said.

In response to the petition, the administration collaborated and came up with a draft of a pledge: Kent State United.

The Kent State United pledge reiterates the notions that Kent State is an environment for “freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas” and non-discrimination statements.

The pledge mentions the public statements of support Kent State has joined in the past, including the city of Akron’s “Open Letter in Support of Our New American Neighbors”.

It also addresses resources available for students, such as pro bono legal services for students covered through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Executive Order (DACA), University Stewards and psychological services, such as the International Student Success support group.

Warren plans to meet with student organizations, including Undergraduate Student Government, later this week to discuss the sanctuary campus petition and the draft of the Kent State United pledge.

Warren also mentioned there are parts of the petition she does not believe are in the best interests of the campus, including the urge for the university to refuse to “honor or recognize federal, state, or regional laws, statutes or regulations.”

“Breaking the law is among one of the least effective ways to protect our students and affect change,” Warren said. “It’s simply an unacceptable strategy to suggest that a state university, or any university for that matter, should refuse to comply with the law as a statement of solidarity.”

Other universities that are self-proclaimed sanctuary campuses, including Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania, share similarities to Kent State, minus the name change. They do not refuse to comply with the law, but they do protect student privacy and citizenship positions and have a non-discrimination policy, which covers national origin and immigration status, according to a comparison chart provided by Warren.

The Faculty Senate did not have a consensus on whether they liked the original petition or the Kent State United pledge more.

Some members felt as though the petition was worded too strongly and other members, such as philosophy professor Linda Williams, said the Kent State United pledge was not strong enough.

“Having done some work in civil disobedience, there’s only so far that things can go,” Williams said. “Sometimes laws need to be bent or broken. So, I’m just trying to get a better handle on how strict you are about how you handle the law.”

Instead of the university refusing to uphold laws, Warren said it should be up to students and faculty members as individuals to take a stand and engage in civil discourse. The university, on the other hand, would instead take the stance of advocating for the change of the law.

“I have said I am willing to go to jail for our cause,” Warren said. “But keep in mind that while I’m in jail, they will come and they will deport the students that have been targeted.”

In March, there will be a panel discussion on free speech at Kent State, especially tailored, in part, to the trolling that occurred to the sanctuary campus petition.

The motion to endorse the original petition has been tabled until the next faculty senate meeting on March 13.

Megan Ayscue is the administration reporter, contact her at [email protected] Anna Huntsman is a broadcast reporter, contact her at [email protected]