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NIU to support students with undocumented citizenship

Response to request for "sanctuary campus" designation

1/30/2017

In December 2016, NIU administration was presented with a petition from concerned faculty, staff and students specifically asking the university to designate itself as a “sanctuary campus.” The university researched and considered this request, but found that “sanctuary campus” is not defined by or recognized under the law and does not offer our undocumented population with any special rights, immunities or protections. As such, the university believes it would be inappropriate to adopt this designation when it may confuse people as to what it means for them or the University.

The university will take measures to support and assist its undocumented population, and encourages students, faculty and staff to continue to communicate with the university on important legal and social issues that impact this population or others. The university has taken steps over the years to provide our students with support services through, among others, the university’s academic and cultural resource centers (in particular, the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies and the Latino Resource Center), Academic and Student Affairs, the International Student & Faculty Office, the Student Financial Aid and Scholarships Offices, and in cooperation with the NIU Foundation. The university will continue these efforts and work to improve upon these efforts as we move forward together.

The following represents university responses to additional specific items which were included in the petition. The university is committed to exploring additional ways that it can help its students and to continuing the conversation over how the university can best provide assistance to its undocumented population.

  1. Guarantee privacy by protecting, and keeping confidential, information regarding the immigration status of students and community members.

Northern Illinois University abides by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), as well as other laws and regulations that may apply to the records maintained on its students. The university will continue its practice of protecting all student records under these laws and regulations, and only disclosing those records as permitted by law regardless of immigration status.

  1. Protect students and community members from deportation and detention. Refuse to comply with immigration authorities in any deportation campaign.

Northern Illinois University Police and Public Safety respects our socially rich and diverse community by treating all people with fairness and dignity. In respect to federal civil immigration law, we hold firm that enforcement generally rests with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and not with state, local and university police. Therefore, unless acting pursuant to a legitimate law enforcement purpose, university police will not detain or arrest any person solely on the suspected belief of a person’s immigration status.

  1. Assign an administrative office the responsibility for advising and counseling the undocumented community. Such counseling and advising services will be on a strictly confidential basis.

Student success is our priority and we are committed to working with Dream Action NIU to identifying and make recommendations for an office designated to supporting, advising and counseling our undocumented student community. In addition, the Office of Counseling and Consultation Services has agreed to participate in an Undocumented Ally training for all counselors this spring.

  1. Reaffirm and publicize the Illinois law granting in-state tuition rates to Illinois residents regardless of immigration status (HB 60).

Since the passage of Public Act 093-07 into law, Northern Illinois University has provided in-state tuition to any person who qualifies under the act, which makes students eligible for in-state tuition. Public Act 093-07 provides that undocumented students are classified as Illinois residents for tuition purposes if they meet all of the following conditions:

  • Student resided with their parent or guardian while attending a public or private Illinois high school in Illinois;
  • Student graduated from an Illinois high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma in Illinois;
  • Student attended an Illinois school for at least three years as of the date of graduation of high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma (attendance does not have to be consecutive); and
  • Student provides the university with an affidavit stating their intent to file an application to become a permanent resident of the United States at the earliest opportunity the student is eligible to do so.

In addition, the Admissions Office maintains a website with further information on applying for in-state tuition under this law: http://www.niu.edu/undocumented/admissions/index.shtml

  1. Pursue scholarship and private funding options for undocumented students.

Northern Illinois University will continue to work with the NIU Foundation to identify donors; establish and maintain scholarships; and seek other private funding sources for persons who are undocumented, or who have contributed significantly to the support of the undocumented community and these important social issues.

  1. Train faculty and staff to provide support for undocumented students and others whose education is under threat.

As part of the Diversity and Inclusion three-year plan, we will expand ally training for faculty, staff and students to include all identities. Additionally, we will collaborate with Dream Action NIU to ensure that its curriculum and trainers continue to provide workshops on how to support undocumented students.

  1. Assure that all students receive a campus, classroom and community experience free of hostilities, aggressions and bullying by further publicizing the campus-wide anonymous reporting mechanism, and by training faculty, staff and community advisors, resident assistants in de-escalation intervention techniques.

Spring 2017, the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will launch a Faculty Toolkit webpage that will offer guidance and resources on how to navigate bias in the classroom as well as offer inclusive syllabus statements and materials on cultural responsive teaching. 

In addition, Northern Illinois University encourages its university community to engage in the civil and collegial debate and deliberation of important social, political, legal and other ideas. It is the foundation for the “life of the mind” that a university is supposed to be.  And to that end, the university has recently issued a new and expanded Freedom of Expression Policy.  Yet, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute under the law. For instance, freedom of speech does not guarantee a right to be obscene, pick fights, incite violence, or defame others.

The university has established a bias reporting process for those persons who believe they have been subjected to an incident of bias that negatively affects individuals and/or the community; that can be reported here. In addition, the university maintains several other mechanisms for handling potential violations of law and policy. Those include, but are not limited to, Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance, Student Conduct and the Department of Police and Public Safety.