University of Maryland President Wallace Loh sent a letter to the campus community Thursday morning addressing ProtectUMD — a coalition of 25 student organizations — and its list of 64 demands sent to the administration in late November to aid marginalized students.
While applauding ProtectUMD groups for “demonstrating citizenship in action” and reiterating this university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, Loh said after senior administrators reviewed the demands, many of them were found to be either already implemented or “unlawful, or impractical, or unnecessary.”
The demand to employ more professors of color, for example, is already being carried out via the university’s strategic plan, which outlines a multi-year initiative to increase the hiring and retention of faculty of color, Loh said. The percentage of black faculty at this university is about 4.6 percent, according to a September 2015 Diamondback article.
Some demands, such as providing prayer rooms in every major building on the campus, are also not practical, Loh continued.
Addressing ProtectUMD’s demand to make this university a sanctuary campus, Loh called the demand “unnecessary.” This statement comes after President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to strip federal funding from sanctuary cities.
Seven colleges in this state have declared themselves sanctuary campuses, meaning they will not turn over undocumented students to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. There are currently 113 undocumented undergraduate and graduate students attending this university as of fall semester under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, The Diamondback reported in November.
While it lacks the formal title, this university already has sanctuary campus policies in place, as Prince George’s County is one of three jurisdictions in the state of Maryland with protocols to protect undocumented immigrants from prosecution by federal authorities.
Campus groups have still joined ProtectUMD’s call for a sanctuary campus status. The Student Government Association, Graduate Student Government and University Senate all passed legislation between late November and early December to defend and support undocumented students after Trump’s election. The Residence Hall Association passed a resolution to explore designating this university sanctuary campus.
The SGA also plans this semester to pass a bill supporting a sanctuary campus designation within its first two meetings, SGA President Katherine Swanson said Saturday. The senior government and politics major added the organization also plans to back the University of Michigan’s bill supporting DACA during a Big Ten student government conference next month at Ohio State University.
Since Trump’s election, Loh has called on members of the university community to urge lawmakers to preserve DACA, an immigration policy created by former President Barack Obama in 2012 that allows undocumented young people who immigrated as children to stay in the U.S. to work and study. He also joined presidents of universities nationwide — including the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, University College; and Loyola University Maryland — in signing an online letter that has accumulated more than 600 signatures as of this month. University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret has also signed the letter.
Loh expressed in his letter Thursday that healing divisions will not be “easy or comfortable” — but promised that this university is taking the concerns of marginalized groups and this university’s “institutional values” seriously.
“We renew the invitation to the student groups comprising “ProtectUMD” to sit down with us to discuss ways we can work together and move our University forward,” Loh wrote. “We want to focus on achieving common goals and advancing shared values instead of going over ”demands,” one by one.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the RHA supported designating this university a sanctuary campus. It passed a resolution to explore the designation. This story has been updated.