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"Rutgers is and always will be a sanctuary"

Submitted by Staff on Fri, 12/09/2016 - 14:15

David and Deepa sent this message on December 9, 2016:

Dear Union Members,

We have done it! On behalf of the AAUP-AFT faculty union, we write to commend the President of the University on his new statement to protect our undocumented students. Yesterday, he clarified and strengthened the assurances in his earlier message of November 15th (issued in anticipation of the rally on November 16th).   He has put in place measures equal to those of the declared “sanctuary campuses.” In its effect, President Barchi's newly released position places Rutgers University alongside Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania as a "sanctuary." President Barchi wrote, “Rutgers is and will always be a sanctuary that supports and enables their [undocumented students’] education, intellectual growth, and personal well-being.”

Throughout this process, Old Queens expressed its own goodwill, while responding positively to activism on the part of faculty and students. Almost 2000 of us marched on November 16th. More than 3600 members of the university community signed the faculty-initiated petition for a sanctuary campus, and a number of departments endorsed that petition. We encourage departments and schools to affirm their solidarity with Rutgers as a sanctuary for undocumented students. This week, however, is just the beginning. We continue to support the efforts of students and faculty to affirm and defend a sanctuary campus. (For those of you interested in the nitty-gritty of pro-sanctuary activism, we review how all this unfolded at the end of this message.)

The AAUP-AFT took up the struggle for a sanctuary campus acting in the best tradition of the union movement which insists that “An injury to one is an injury to all.” If we allow one segment of our campus community to be targeted, it makes us all more vulnerable to the Trump agenda.

We will continue to resist this agenda, which impacts all of us regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. The union will be sponsoring buses to Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington planned on Saturday, January, 21. Please look out for details in a forthcoming email.

Tonight, do come out to our holiday party at Pino’s in Highland Park from 4:30pm – 7:00pm (13 N. 4th Ave.) Let's raise a glass to our activism and our ongoing commitment to social and economic justice.

In solidarity,
David and Deepa

David M Hughes
President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Professor of Anthropology

Deepa Kumar
Vice-President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Associate Professor of Journalism & Media Studies

Here is how the events unfolded:

At the beginning of this week, the Union requested answers from the Administration on a number of material ambiguities in his earlier message:

1.       Would Old Queens release student records to the federal government only upon presentation of a court order, warrant, or subpoena - or whenever, as President Barchi put it, “required by law”?
2.       Would the Administration continue to allow DACA students to pay in-state tuition?
3.       Would the Administration supplement its immigration law clinics in Newark and Camden by creating a similar facility in New Brunswick?

Additionally, we pleaded that President Barchi signal his forthrightness by:

4.       Declaring Rutgers University to be a “sanctuary campus.”

Late that afternoon, President Barchi wrote back to the two of us – as well as to the entire Union membership. That message conceded Points 1 and 2 immediately. The following afternoon, Tuesday, faculty and students converged at the Board of Governor’s meeting. We presented the petition for a sanctuary campus. The faculty members who spoke to the BOG mostly congratulated President Barchi on these steps. Students from Cosecha, UndocuRutgers, and the Rutgers One Coalition staged a sit-in to demand Point 4 and:  

5.       That the Administration interdict the physical presence of the officers of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) from the Rutgers campuses.

In the intervening days, we have been in communication with President Barchi and with our Union’s legal counsel, Steven Weissman, to determine the status and way forward on Points 3-5. To our joy, President Barchi conceded Point 5 in yesterday’s message to the entire university community.

He did not agree to Point 3, as the Administration believes that the Newark and Camden clinics can serve students statewide. Here the Union – or really its allies in the legal community – can fill the gap. Weissman & Mintz, the law firm that represents ourselves and many other unions in New Jersey, is working with our members in the Rutgers Law immigration clinics, other lawyers, law firms and civil liberties groups in the state to build a pro bono legal network to provide legal counseling and representation to organizations and individuals, including undocumented students and residents, whose rights will be under attack by the incoming Trump Administration. This network will surely offer to undocumented students support equivalent to that of our law clinics. We thank our Rutgers Law membership for its strong support.

With all these items in place, the only outstanding issue is Point 4, the actual designation of Rutgers as a “sanctuary campus.” President Barchi, as he writes, is reluctant to embrace that label. Nonetheless, the other four items actually meet or exceed the standards of the “sanctuary campuses” of Columbia University and Penn. Those administrations did not pronounce the term “sanctuary campus” either. Without necessarily intending to do so, President Barchi has made Rutgers, in fact, a sanctuary campus. After all he promised in his letter, “Rutgers is and will always be a sanctuary that supports and enables their [undocumented students’] education, intellectual growth, and personal well-being.”

At the end of the day, with President Barchi, we have built a legal wall of welcome, protecting our undocumented students from a newly hostile government. As it has become increasingly necessary to do, we mobilized students, faculty, and the administration for social justice and in defense of the most vulnerable among us.

Rutgers AAUP-AFT
11 Stone Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Office phone: (732) 964-1000
Main union email address:

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