Across the nation, college campuses have been working to respond to recent changes and proposed changes to the way international students, faculty and staff members are allowed to study, live and work in the U.S.
Appalachian students, faculty and staff are concerned and passionate about matters related to immigration, and their beliefs and opinions span the political spectrum. University administrators have been called upon to both declare the university a sanctuary campus and to publicly deny they would do so. The focus of campus effort is on supporting our students, faculty and staff regardless of their immigration status or political ideology. Our community values international scholars and experiences. This conviction is key to the Appalachian Experience. Further, Appalachian is committed to open and respectful dialogue and diversity of thought, belief and community.
Appalachian is committed to supporting our international and immigrant students, faculty and staff. The university provides and will continue to provide support and assistance to these individuals, who enhance our campus daily with their presence, their cultures and their knowledge. We are working harder than ever before to attract and retain international student, faculty and staff talent.
As a state institution, a member of the University of North Carolina System, an accredited institution of higher education and an institution that receives federal funding Appalachian is subject to numerous rules and regulations. While remaining compliant with the laws and policies that guide us and to which we are accountable, our university is taking action to provide support both publicly and individually to members of our community affected by immigration policies, laws and debates. Below you can read about some of these measures:
On Feb. 3, Chancellor Everts joined more than 600 colleges and universities in signing a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly expressing concern with President Trump’s Jan. 27, 2017 executive order.
On March 15, Chancellor Everts again joined hundreds of educational institutions across the country in a letter to President Trump expressing support for America’s “Dreamers,” a term named after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a bill first introduced in congress in 2010, which would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children who grew up in the United States. The act failed to pass, but the term has lived on, as a way to describe children and young adults who were brought into the U.S. illegally as minors, and who have lived lives as Americans. These individuals are not documented, so they are not tracked, yet they attend colleges and universities across the country. The Obama Administration released a white paper and fact sheet on the economic value of America’s Dreamers in 2010. Read more about Dreamers and the DREAM Act here.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. The term "education record" is broadly defined and basically includes any university-maintained information about a student other than that which the university defines by policy as "directory information." Here’s where you can find out about FERPA information for Appalachian students.
There are members of our community who are feeling fearful, and who both need and deserve the support of the institution that welcomed them to the United States, to Boone and to our campus.
The Chancellor and her cabinet and leadership are committed to exercising every available legal option to ensure the safety and well-being of all members of our community, and to provide each and every member of our campus community with a positive and fruitful learning environment. No one should feel afraid on our campus.
It is important to note that not all of these actions are taking place in the public eye. Staff and administrators conduct many of their duties in small groups and individual meetings or work sessions, particularly in cases in which it is necessary to provide individualized support to assist students, faculty and staff with specific situations. That said, there is quite a bit that is being done in larger groups and more public settings.
While immigration law is a very specialized area, legal services are available to students, faculty and staff. Here are some places to start, get some general advice and when necessary, referrals and/or additional resources.
Students who have legal questions can consult with Appalachian’s Student Legal Clinic. It’s a free and confidential place to start with general questions, so if you need advice, make an appointment. While the legal clinic attorney can’t advise in all matters, she can provide general advice, and when necessary make referrals and direct students to additional resources.
For faculty and staff, the university’s Employee Assistance Program offers legal referrals and resources via ComPsych. Attorneys are on call for a free, 30-minute consultation, and if you require representation, you can receive a 25 percent reduction off their customary legal fees.
Appalachian has many ways to assist students who are facing challenges that are impeding academic success. These include everything from technology support to social and emotional support, and are typically highly customized to meet the needs of the student. The bottom line, however, is that no one should feel afraid to attend class. If this is the case, then staff and faculty will work together to solve the underlying problem. The Dean of Students office is the place to begin, if you are a student or if you know a student who needs help.
This is a key issue for any campus, and at Appalachian many resources are being directed toward improving dialogue, so we can have conversations that are solving issues of hostile communications, and we get more comfortable as a campus talking about difficult topics, and creating solutions together. Notably, this is work that is never done and requires diligence. We have an institutional commitment and plenty of expertise on our campus, so we all need to get involved, be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and keep working together.
To learn about initiatives underway, see “What our campus is doing.”
FERPA (see Protect privacy above) also affords additional privacy protection for student educational records and most employment-related information in a personnel file is confidential as well, although there are exceptions to this, with which you can familiarize yourself here.
Student health and safety is a top priority at Appalachian. For students to progress academically, they must be well and safe. Wellness resources for students, faculty and staff are continually reviewed and evaluated for areas of additional growth and improvement.
The good news is, much recent progress has been made in terms of providing wellness and counseling resources, particularly for students. For students, the Counseling and Psychological Services center the Office of Wellness and Prevention Services and Student Health Services offer support and assistance for mental and physical health.
This is where institutions of higher education excel, and can perhaps do the most to create, develop and continue constructive and thoughtful dialogue.
On March 29, nearly 150 students, faculty and staff turned out for an information session with Robert Lamb, associate attorney with Hatch Rockers Immigration in Asheville. Our campus possesses a tremendous amount of expertise in the areas of politics, law and international affairs, and there are resources to host and publicize speakers on our campus as well as panel discussions with members of our campus community.
Such efforts have and will continue to receive support from the Office of the Chancellor, Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, the Office of International Education and Development and other divisions and departments on campus.
Public and private universities can respond differently as they are subject to different sets of constraints. As a state institution, Appalachian is subject not only to federal laws and regulations, but also to the General Statues of the State of North Carolina, and the policies of the University of North Carolina System.
Additional constraints can lie in finding the most effective ways to support those who face challenges because of their immigration status. In many situations, supporting those who need it is not a widely evident action.
It is also important to note that Appalachian fosters a culture of making commitments only when there is intent to honor them. Appalachian will not commit to becoming a sanctuary campus because there is no legal or even widely agreed-upon definition or criteria for what this term means. To be sure, the concept is an extension of the concept for sanctuary cities, but that term also has no legal definition and is not well defined societally.
There is an excellent information overview about this topic by Dan Berger and Stephen Yale-Loehr on the website for Miller Mayer, LLC a law firm based in Ithaca, New York. Here is one key excerpt:
“There has never been large-scale immigration enforcement on U.S. campuses. There have been individual actions. Therefore, it is not clear what form such action might take, and what kind of court challenges would be successful. It is not even clear what the definition of “campus” would be if a sanctuary is declared, since many institutions hold property outside of the main set of academic buildings. The American Council on Education (ACE) and other organizations are studying these issues, and deeper analysis will be forthcoming.”
The spirit of the sanctuary campus - to provide support for members of the university community when they need it - is keenly understood, however. Appalachian is committed to doing this in every way allowable by law.