Dear campus community,
On Friday, I learned of an online petition asking that our Board of Governors and I declare Wayne State University to be a sanctuary campus. While the petition has not yet been presented formally, I was given a copy and have had the chance to read it.
That there is such a petition speaks well of the commitment of our students, faculty and staff to the abiding principles of our democratic society and of Wayne State University. While there is no generally accepted definition of “sanctuary campus,” the petition requests that the university take a number of specific actions that are consistent with actions and values we have previously affirmed. Among these was a request that I join more than 600 presidents of U.S. colleges and universities in signing the Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, which I have done.
With regard to the other requests, I declared our support for international and undocumented students in a Dec. 6 campus email. The positions outlined in that email were intended to address concerns while also adhering to the law. These positions have not changed. Designation as a “sanctuary campus” provides no additional benefits. In fact, having become highly politicized, it may actually generate unnecessary political and financial risk. For example, Congress introduced legislation last month to financially punish “sanctuary campus” colleges. In our own state of Michigan, HB 4105, the Sanctuary Policy Prohibition Act, was introduced just last week. HB 4105, which is currently limited to local units of government, enacts financial penalties for noncompliance.
To date, although many colleges, universities and university systems offer protections similar to ours, we have been able to identify only a dozen or so — none in Michigan — that have actually self-designated as a “sanctuary campus,” mostly small private colleges. While we will continue to do everything possible to protect our students and faculty and provide a safe and secure academic environment, I agree with the overwhelming majority of my fellow presidents and chancellors from universities throughout the nation that there is no need to adopt this ill-defined and politically charged designation.
Members of our community and the media have asked me where I stand on certain political issues. As president of a public university, my personal political views are irrelevant. I stand, and our Board of Governors stands, with our mission and values as articulated in our strategic plan. We stand with our mission because it serves all people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religious belief or country of origin. We stand with our values of diversity and inclusion because they provide our students with a better education and make us better persons. And we stand with our students and faculty, who come from around the corner and across the world to be part of this great university.
Whatever our individual political beliefs, each member of the Board of Governors and I have a fiduciary responsibility to do what is in the best interest of Wayne State University and to protect it from unnecessary risk. We do this while upholding our resolute commitment to our students, faculty and staff.
M. Roy Wilson