Update on Sanctuary Campus Status

December 16, 2016

President Drinan

A Message from President Helen Drinan

On Thursday, December 1, 2016, I communicated about a petition circulating on social media, addressed to the Members of the Simmons College Board of Trustees and myself, seeking the designation of Simmons College as a "sanctuary campus."

At that time, I shared the fact that the Simmons College Board of Trustees Executive Committee was scheduled to meet on December 7, 2016, and that I would take that opportunity to review the petition with Executive Committee Members. My report on those deliberations follows.

Commitment to Social Justice

The Executive Committee Members discussed the petition, my 12/1/16 message to the community, legal advice we sought specific to Simmons College, and guidance on the topic of sanctuary campuses prepared by the American Council on Education (ACE).

With our College's history of social justice ever present in their minds, the Executive Committee Members strongly reconfirmed the commitments to Simmons students and to Simmons employees identified in my first communication, which are to:

  • Uphold the federal and state privacy rights of students and employees in the event that law enforcement authorities request that we disregard them
  • Ensure that Simmons Public Safety Officers have no access to, and make no inquiries about, the immigration status of an individual
  • Confirm that Simmons Public Safety Officers do not enforce immigration laws or participate with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in their work
  • Avoid discrimination of any kind on the basis of immigration status
  • Continue our legal employment practices which have never included the use of E-Verify, a government website used for checking the legal work status of an individual
  • Require government agents, including ICE, to follow applicable procedures for obtaining access to private information (including immigration status) about students and employees
  • Decline to provide private information to government agents unless compelled to do so by a valid warrant, a judicial order, or both, and only then after the determination of our legal obligations to comply by our General Counsel and external legal advisors
  • Provide a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our community

In addition, the Executive Committee concurred with our recommendation to support Simmons students dealing with immigration status challenges in two ways. First, a Simmons student needing legal advice because of DACA status, or similar issue, is invited to reach out to our General Counsel, Kathy Rogers, or our Assistant General Counsel, Gretchen Groggel-Ralston, who will arrange a meeting for the student with an immigration lawyer in the new year at Simmons’ expense. Second, our Enrollment Management team will provide special financial consideration related to college expenses to students whose immigration status may negatively impact their continued eligibility for federal financial aid.

At this time, without a common definition of a “sanctuary campus," Members of the Executive Committee indicated they cannot endorse such a status for Simmons College because of the potential for unintended consequences particularly related to our reliance on the federal government for substantial financial aid and Pell Grant funds that make it possible for hundreds of our students to obtain a Simmons College education.

Since my first communication on sanctuary campuses, I have signed the Statement of Support for Deferred Action in Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, organized by the President of Pomona College.

There is no question that Simmons College intends to sustain its long-held values of fairness and inclusion while also supporting the development of legal processes that will continue to be an inspiration to so many people across the world. We will work toward these ends, purposefully, together.