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Sanctuary Campuses: Update and Actions via Petition and Letters

Submitted by Staff on Tue, 11/22/2016 - 10:52

On November 22, 2016, David M. Hughes and Deepa Kumar sent the following message to union members in the full-time AAUP-AFT bargaining unit at Rutgers:


Cutting to the chase: Please sign this petition, if you have not already done so, and please propose a similar letter at your next department meeting.

Dear Union Members,

It has been a tumultuous two weeks. In the wake of Donald Trump's election, campuses around the country have erupted in protest and opposition, particularly to his plans to deport undocumented students and undocumented people in general. In New Brunswick, the rally on 16 November drew roughly 2000 people by our count, including scores of our union members. Camden and Newark faculty participated in events on their campuses as well.


The rally--and the 100+ simultaneous protests nationwide--centered on the demand for a "sanctuary campus." In the fashion of a sanctuary city, a sanctuary college or university refuses to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with the Department of Homeland Security, or with any agency seeking to detain and deport undocumented students, faculty, or staff. The municipalities of Camden, Newark, and New York declared themselves to be sanctuaries some time ago. An allied movement is now pushing for New Brunswick to declare sanctuary. The Union is hoping that Rutgers will emerge as one of the institutions of higher education to declare sanctuary. Columbia University, Reed College and Portland State already have declared themselves as sanctuary colleges.

The sanctuary movement stands in the best tradition of the civil rights movement and its strategy of civil disobedience. It is, however, a limited strategy, in that it does not impact immigration policy outside the university at borders, ports or airports. The designation merely affords a measure of security to students, faculty and staff who already belong to our community and who contribute to the excellence of Rutgers. In that sense, actually, sanctuary is not revolutionary: it simply defends the Rutgers we know and love against a president-elect who wishes to undercut it. On Saturday, the AAUP National Council (on which John Castella, Zoran Gajic, Richard Gomes, and David M. Hughes serve) passed a resolution endorsing sanctuary campuses.

Progress so far

President Barchi just joined with more than 90 college presidents in calling for the continuation of the DACA Program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). President Barchi has also accepted some--but not all--of the eleven principles of sanctuary as articulated at last week's rally and in the petition described below. These actions do not go far enough. President Barchi has not, for instance, committed to allowing DACA students to continue to pay in-state tuition. Given that the federal government may abolish DACA, Old Queens should offer such a commitment to affected individuals and all undocumented residents of New Jersey now. President Barchi has also remained silent on whether Rutgers police will cooperate with ICE or deny them official permission to enter our campuses. Finally, he considers the Rutgers Immigration Rights Clinic in Newark sufficient to meet the needs of all students statewide. Clearly, we now need such facilities in Camden and New Brunswick as well.

What we can do

In the short term, the Union has adopted a three-pronged strategy for achieving a sanctuary university. Each action relies upon your activism:

1. As individuals, please sign the sanctuary petition and forward to colleagues, students, and alums. Please sign even if you suspect that you may have already signed it; we will "de-duplicate" the list of names.

2. As departments, please modify and endorse an equivalent letter to your chancellor and President Barchi. Send an email reply to this address ( when your unit votes to endorse the letter.

3. Please affix a "Sanctuary sticker" to your door, bulletin board, and other public spaces. The Union will soon distribute these materials, printed in English, Spanish, and Arabic (the last language included in light of Donald Trump's threats against Muslim Americans).

In the slightly longer term, we are in dialogue with national groups inside and outside the labor movement regarding plans for Inauguration Day, Friday 20 January. On or around that date, we will likely sponsor an event at Rutgers and assist members who wish to travel to protests planned in Washington, DC.

Overall, as we wrote just after the election, these symbolic and material actions will deny Donald Trump the impression of a popular, majority mandate to implement his agenda. The outlook is not promising--for pluralism, education, science, and for so much of what we value. But these are the days, weeks, and months wherein union members will craft an alternative politics of resistance, endurance, and renaissance. So much has changed in our country, and we must change, too.

In solidarity,

David and Deepa

David M. Hughes
Professor of Anthropology (SAS-New Brunswick)
President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT

Deepa Kumar
Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies (SC&I-New Brunswick)
Vice-President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT


Rutgers AAUP-AFT
11 Stone Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Office phone (732) 964-1000
Fax: (732) 964-1032

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