President McCartney Declares Support For The Sanctuary Campus Movement


Hira Humayun ’17
Editor in Chief

On Nov. 28 President McCartney sent out an email to the Smith community expressing the institution’s commitment to protecting undocumented students and becoming a sanctuary campus.

The statement came shortly after McCartney signed a statement issued by David Oxtoby, president of Pomona College, which urged all sectors of society to recognize the importance of, and to uphold and expand, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA). The program has been in place since 2012, and under it many undocumented students are now able to study in the US.

The statement from Pomona said, “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.”

“I strongly support the spirit of the petition,” McCartney wrote in her email to the Smith community. “Within the limits of federal law, we must support every member of our community, including and especially those targeted by anti-immigrant actions.” She affirmed Smith’s commitment to ensure that students can pursue their education in a “safe and supportive environment.”

With the Executive Committee and the chair of the Board of Trustees, she pledged commitment to nondiscrimination with regard to education access and protection regardless of citizenship or immigration status, and reaffirmed that Smith will continue withholding information about students’ immigration or citizenship status unless “compelled to do so.” This pledge also included that undocumented students’ status will not disadvantage their consideration for admission to the college.

The letter also stated Smith’s commitment to going beyond the campus and working with other higher education institutions to “extend and renew DACA”.

Following the results of the presidential election, petitions urging for higher education institutions to join the movement have been circulating throughout college and university campuses. Smith’s petition to declare itself a sanctuary campus garnered over 1,600 signatures.

Faculty member Ginetta Candelario, inspired by a similar petition from Pomona College, began Smith’s petition. It was sent to President McCartney on Nov. 11.

Bard College, Columbia  University, Drake University, Pitzer College, University of California, University of Pennsylvania and Wesleyan University among many others, have all declared themselves sanctuary campuses. Within the Pioneer Valley, students at Mount Holyoke, Amherst College and UMass Amherst have held walk-outs and are demanding their institutions declare themselves sanctuary campuses.

Mount Holyoke’s petition to declare the college a sanctuary campus gathered over 1,500 signatures, more than half of which came from alumnae. On Nov. 22, Mount Holyoke’s acting President Sonya Stephens sent out an email to the Mount Holyoke community in which she stated, in light of the political climate that, “it is against this backdrop that over 200 students protested on November 16, presenting me with a petition that makes specific demands to protect those international and undocumented students who may lose legal protections for their immigration status.”

The letter went on to say, “Please be assured that my colleagues and I share your concerns and have been working through the details, seeking counsel, and doubling down on our commitment to support the most vulnerable members of our community. I will formally respond to the petitions very soon.”

Like McCartney and Amherst College President Biddy Martin, Stephens had also signed the statement issued by Pomona College, upholding the DACA policy.

On Friday Nov. 18, UMass Amherst responded to student protests of Wednesday, Nov. 16 where they demanded that UMass be declared a sanctuary campus.

Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy said in the letter, “I welcome the sentiments expressed in the petition that was delivered to the UMass Amherst administration Wednesday, and want to assure our campus community that we will do everything within our legal and moral authority to protect our students, faculty and staff whether they be undocumented immigrants, refugees or international students. I and my administration are fully committed, as we always have been, to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for every member of our community, regardless of immigration status.”

The letter continued, “the protections that are being called for in the petition are in place,” such as upholding the practice of the UMass Police Department not gathering information about students’ citizenship or immigration status, and protecting student confidentiality by withholding private information about student unless compelled by a court order. Subbaswamy also affirmed the institution’s commitment to in-state resident tuition for DACA students.

He also stated, “While, as a state institution, we are bound to comply with state and federal law, enforcement of federal immigration policy is not within our remit.”

Amherst College President Biddy Martin also sent out an email to the Amherst College community on Nov. 20, which stated, “At this moment, we are particularly focused on undocumented students and students with legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. We will do everything we can within the limits of the law to support them and fulfill our promise of educational opportunity.” Martin went on to reaffirm that the college will work with other colleges, universities and legal experts to “see what additional measures [it] can take to protect [its] students.”


Stay tuned for an interview with President McCartney in next week’s issue.


  1. Marie Adams says:

    So, that’s great that smith has opted to pick and choose which federal laws it is willing to follow.

    Compare this approach with what the President of Bowdoin College announced (from an article from its student paper):

    “The question presented by this petition (and by others like it) is whether Bowdoin or other colleges and universities could effectively declare our campuses to be havens where immigration laws cannot be enforced. Legal counsel tells us that we have no such power, so to make this kind of declaration would be both disingenuous and falsely reassuring,” he wrote in his email.

Leave a Comment