By Fleming Smith
On February 3, the faculty passed a resolution asking the administration to take steps to resist White House policy if such policy endangers Sewanee students and staff. Professors Tam Parker of Religious Studies and Manuel Chinchilla of Spanish served as the primary writers of the resolution, which was shared with students and staff by Dean of College Terry Papillon.
The resolution begins, “Be it resolved, that we, the Faculty of the College of the University of the South, encourage this institution to condemn, and when necessary, resist the White House executive orders on immigration and refugee policy issued on January 25, 27 and 30, 2017 and any other such policies singling out individuals based upon immigration status or any other category identified in our diversity statement.”
The document was adapted from similar resolutions made by other organizations in order to fit Sewanee. “It was a group of maybe six to eight professors, and Tam and I were the two who had enough tenure and could lend our voices in a very, let’s say, public way. Not that the professors felt like anything bad would happen if they speak up,” explained Chinchilla on the writing of the resolution.
“It’s just the safer thing to do,” added Parker.
The resolution did not pass unanimously, but attained a “critical mass” of support, according to Chinchilla. In contrast to the resolution passed last semester by the faculty regarding the political climate, Chinchilla said, “This [resolution] is more forceful, in that we are indeed asking the University to take steps to resist the stigmatization of certain groups who may be a part of the Sewanee campus.”
On February 5, Vice-Chancellor John McCardell sent an e-mail to students and faculty regarding “specific actions” they could take in response to the executive orders on immigration. He shared a template from Rutgers designed to help in contacting representatives specifically to support the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act. BRIDGE would provide relief from deportation for individuals eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). McCardell ended the e-mail by saying, “As I learn of more specific actions individuals might take, I will pass them along.”
Parker and Chinchilla wanted to reassure students that the faculty recognizes the troubling consequences of recent executive orders, and urges the administration not to “voluntarily assist in any efforts by the federal or state government to apprehend, detain, or deport immigrants and undocumented individuals in our community,” according to the resolution.
“If you’re not directly affected by those executive orders, then perhaps it’s something you can afford not to think about, but that’s not the case with every single faculty members and every single student. For them, it can be a live and frightening situation,” said Parker.
Chinchilla and Parker both attended the vigil held on February 1 and admired the actions already taken by several students and faculty members. “I think students are doing a lot, way more than just resolutions,” Chinchilla said with a laugh. According to Parker and Chinchilla, the Politics department recently announced a panel discussion that will be held following the end of Trump’s first 100 days as president, and more events may be planned soon.
“I think we need to do what we do as a university. We teach, we learn,” said Chinchilla. “That’s not the only thing we can do, but it’s what we know how to do.”