The Student Association voted on Feb. 28 to endorse a SUNY Student Association resolution that is headed to the members of the SUNY executive committee.
The resolution calls for the executive committee, one of the head governing bodies of the SUNY system, to declare all SUNY campuses to be sanctuary campuses, with the goal of protecting immigrants, undocumented to registered, from legal action based on their immigration status.
According to the resolution, the SUNY system has approximately 22,140 international students from 160 countries around the globe. Of those 22,140 students, 320 are from countries that were named in President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel on Jan. 27.
On Jan. 29 a petition was presented to Oswego State President Deborah Stanley to declare Oswego State a sanctuary campus. However, at the town hall after she received the petition, Howard Gordon, an executive assistant to Stanley, said there is no legal definition of a sanctuary campus. As such, there is no way to take specific actions to fulfil that declaration.
“The issue is that there isn’t a definition to sanctuary campuses, and that’s where a lot of the issues are coming from,” said Oswego State SA President Emily Nassir.
The phrasing of the resolution does not offer insight to the problem, stating “that in undertaking these actions, the Student Assembly of the State University of New York urge the State University of New York Board of Trustees to take further steps to protect the right of all students enrolled at the State University of New York to pursue a higher education,” as one of its resolutions.
The resolution was authored by Oswego State senator Eusebio Omar van Reenen, University College representative Conner Wolfe and SUNY Plattsburgh SA President Vrinda Sharma, and has so far been endorsed by the SA of SUNY Plattsburgh and Oswego State.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, who oversees all SUNY campuses, included a memo that detailed her support for the resolution and her reasons for why she supports it.
“The proposed resolution affirms the support of the State University of New York for its undocumented students and its strong commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion across the entire State University system,” Zimpher said in her memo.
The SUNY SA system works in conjunction with the individual student associations of individual SUNY campuses and senators in any individual association can sponsor bills through SUNY SA. Legislation sent through SUNY SA effects all SUNY campuses, if it is passed.
“To my knowledge, resolutions to this degree have not been very common for SA in the past,” Oswego State SA Vice President Dalton Bisson said. This year’s group of senators are incredibly passionate and very civically engaged.”
The SUNY legislative system has two legislative bodies to represent members of the various campuses to the larger state university system, one being SUNY SA. The faculty members are represented in the other body, the University Faculty senate. That faculty senate approved a similar resolution, to petition the SUNY Board of Trustees to make SUNY campuses sanctuary campuses, on Jan. 21.