Remarks to the Indiana University Board of Trustees

Alumni Hall, Indiana Memorial Union, IU Bloomington

The Election and its Aftermath

Trustees: I want to make some remarks in the aftermath of our recent election on November 8, 2016, and then I would like to comment on some recent awards and recognition won by our outstanding faculty.

This election saw the end of a bitter and divisive campaign. We all hope that our elected leaders can now work together in the interests of all Americans.

However, in the wake of the election, there were a number of incidents on some of our campuses that led to me to send a message to all members of the Indiana University Community on November 14. I believe this message states very clearly IU’s values and mission and the obligation that every member of the university community has to respect them and to adhere to them. These are values which the IU Board of Trustees has repeatedly endorsed over many years. I want to take this opportunity to read this message into the record of this meeting and to underscore again all we stand for and our responsibilities as one of the world’s premier universities.

My message began:

“The 2016 presidential election is over, and our country has made a decision. The contentious political climate of the last several months has underscored deep divisions within our country. Debate and discussion about the issues over which the election was contested will and should continue, but it must be carried out in a spirit of tolerance and respect for the opinions of others, and one that recognizes everyone’s fundamental right to freedom of speech.

“The university has received some reports of harassment and intimidation of members of the IU community. This kind of behavior is completely inconsistent with the spirit of tolerance and respect that we must foster, and it is totally unacceptable, as is any form of vandalism to property. Indiana University will do all it can to ensure the safety of all in its community and to support them. All members of the IU community are highly valued and warmly welcomed here. Our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness is one of our core values.”

“Indiana University—and the nation’s other leading public universities—can serve as models of communities whose members are committed to evaluating new ideas, fostering meaningful debate, and openly addressing the very real problems that confront the people of our country and the world. We must continue to build a university community whose members are committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity—a community in which there is no room for discrimination or harassment based on anyone’s actual or perceived race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, personal convictions or national origin.”

“We must also aspire to be an engaged Indiana University in the state and beyond. Indiana University is a vital part of a thriving democracy. We educate students who go on to engage in work that advances the common good. We prepare students for lifetimes of active, engaged citizenship. We can also lead the way in contributing to greater understanding of the causes of some of the most pressing problems facing us, and to finding solutions to these problems.”

“As we prepare for IU’s Bicentennial and our third century, we must recommit ourselves to fulfilling these missions and to educating the next generation of civic, cultural, social, and economic leaders of the state, the nation, and the world.”

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

In the following week, questions began to be asked on some IU campuses about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, given some of the views on immigration expressed during the election campaign. This caused concern and anxiety for many students in the DACA program. DACA is an immigration program established by the Obama administration in 2012, that allows certain undocumented immigrants to the United States who entered the country as minors, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. The program does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship.

On behalf of Indiana University, I want to assure all DACA students that we remain fully committed to ensuring a welcoming, safe, civil, and inclusive community for all of our students.  While no action has been foreshadowed by the incoming administration, and while we do not know whether action concerning this program will be a high priority for it after January, IU is committed to strongly supporting all of our DACA students. 

As a public institution bound by federal and state laws, Indiana University is able to, and will, take various steps to support all of our students, regardless of immigration status:

  • IU respects the privacy of all students equally in their studies, work, and personal lives, and therefore will only inquire into, record, use, or communicate a person’s immigration status when required by law or when necessary to protect a person’s safety. We protect the privacy of all student records as required by the Federal Educational Records Protection Act, known as FERPA.
  • IU provides counseling and support to students on immigration-related concerns through the Office of International Student Services (https://www.ois.iu.edu/).
  • IU will provide counseling to students about, and connect students to, available resources for educational and living expenses for which they are legally eligible through the Office of Scholarships (https://scholarships.indiana.edu).
  • IU will vigorously investigate and prosecute anyone who threatens, intimidates, or harasses any member of our community, and will make special efforts to protect those who are targeted or at risk for physical harm, threats, or intimidation.
  • IU will continue and intensify its long-standing advocacy for expanded access to higher education for all Indiana University students living in the United States, including specifically advocating for the continuation of the DACA program and for the equal treatment of such students for all educational programs. 

These and related points have been communicated to all DACA students and others by the Provost and the Chancellors who are in contact with them. All of us at Indiana University then, deeply value every one of our admitted students, and we will closely monitor any developments in federal policy on immigration status and the DACA program in particular in the new year.

Advocacy

I mentioned our commitment to advocacy for the continuation of immigration programs that affect our students. To this end, I joined the presidents and chancellors of nearly 300 of America’s leading universities, including 44 of the 60 American members of the AAU and 10 of the 14 members of the Big 10, in signing a “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students.”  Again, I want to take this opportunity to read this statement into the record of this meeting.

“The core mission of higher education is the advancement of knowledge, people, and society. As educational leaders, we are committed to upholding free inquiry and education in our colleges and universities, and to providing the opportunity for all our students to pursue their learning and life goals.”

“Since the advent of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, we have seen the critical benefits of this program for our students, and the highly positive impacts on our institutions and communities. DACA beneficiaries on our campuses have been exemplary student scholars and student leaders, working across campus and in the community. With DACA, our students and alumni have been able to pursue opportunities in business, education, high tech, and the non-profit sector; they have gone to medical school, law school, and graduate schools in numerous disciplines. They are actively contributing to their local communities and economies.”

“To our country’s leaders, we say that DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded. We are prepared to meet with you to present our case. This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity. America needs talent – and these students, who have been raised and educated in the United States, are already part of our national community. They represent what is best about America, and as scholars and leaders they are essential to the future.”

“We call on our colleagues and other leaders across the business, civic, religious, and non-profit sectors to join with us in this urgent matter.”

(https://www.pomona.edu/news/2016/11/21-college-university-presidents-call-us-uphold-and-continue-daca)

Concluding Comments

Let me conclude by saying that I have a particularly acute sense of the importance of immigration programs and all those affected by them, for I am myself an immigrant, as are my three children, though we are all now proud US citizens. Chancellor Paydar and his wife are immigrants. This is half of the senior academic leadership of Indiana University, that is, myself and the three executive vice presidents. And we must always remember that apart from any Native Americans among us, in this country we are ALL immigrants or the descendants of immigrants.

Immigration has been one of the fundamental strengths of American society and democracy since its founding, enriching it and providing the freedom for the most talented to succeed and prosper. This country has been a beacon of hope around the world to those oppressed by tyranny and class. Indiana University is committed to doing all that it can to help preserve and protect these notions that are at the heart of the American Idea, and to fostering a supportive and welcoming environment for students from all backgrounds and from all parts of the world.

With that, thank you Mr. Chairman, and I know the Board will continue to strongly support these principles.