In recent weeks our community has repeatedly shown its solidarity with, and support for, students and other individuals who are concerned that their ability to live and study in this country is in jeopardy. Undocumented students (including DACA students), American-born students who have undocumented family members in the country, and international students whose ability to travel to and from the United States may no longer be assured all have stressed the potential impact of changes in immigration policy and enforcement on their ability to pursue an education in the United States. Last week’s rally and protest outside Old Chapel was an inspiring display of empathy and support for and by our fellow community members. I thank the many students who organized and attended the event and the faculty and staff who joined them. We have seen similar displays of support among students, faculty, and staff at the Middlebury Institute.
Middlebury is and will remain unwaveringly committed to providing educational opportunities to students without regard to nationality, place of birth, immigration status, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or economic status. We also support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows undocumented individuals who arrived in the United States as children to remain in the country without fear of deportation.
Today there is understandable concern over the future of DACA, though the incoming administration has not commented on its plans. Similarly, discussions about potential deportations of some undocumented residents and the introduction of tighter restrictions for individuals entering or returning to the United States from certain parts of the world would have the potential to disrupt families and economic structures. Such changes could complicate the lives of students who leave and reenter the country to study abroad, to conduct research outside the country, or to visit family.
No one can predict what will happen right now. But I can tell you what Middlebury’s approach will be. We will take every legal measure to support our undocumented students as we continue to live up to our principles of educational access and inclusivity. We will continue to safeguard student records and will not voluntarily share them with federal or state law enforcement or other officials. We will continue to provide pro bono legal assistance to undocumented students who seek advice regarding their ability to fully participate in Middlebury’s academic programs. And we will work with our Vermont congressional delegation to encourage the continuation of DACA and the passage of the DREAM Act, which would create a pathway to legal residency for undocumented immigrants who entered the country before the age of 16, who have lived here for at least five consecutive years, and who graduated from a U.S. high school or received a GED.
Today I am announcing two additional steps we are taking. First, starting next year for applicants to Middlebury College’s Class of 2022, we will evaluate applications from undocumented prospective students under our need-blind admissions policy with a commitment to meet full demonstrated financial need. In taking this step, we are signaling to the thousands of ambitious and academically gifted young students from immigrant backgrounds across the country that Middlebury College seeks to enroll the best and most promising students regardless of their circumstances. Second, we will increase the amount of pro bono legal assistance we make available to students at the College and the Institute to assist with immigration and travel-related questions and issues. We will bring an immigration attorney to the Middlebury campus in the next two weeks for an information session and individual meetings and we will schedule a comparable day in Monterey. We will provide more details in the coming days and weeks.
Finally, we will continue to work with other institutions to advance the goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education. To that end, I have joined with other college and university leaders in signing three statements in recent days that affirm our highest principles as an institution.
- A statement supporting DACA signed by more than 100 college and university presidents.
- An open letter to President-elect Trump, signed by more than 100 presidents of liberal arts colleges, asking him to condemn and work to prevent the harassment, hate, and acts of violence we have seen perpetrated across our nation.
- A statement from educational leaders in Vermont, including the governor and governor-elect, reiterating support for diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in Vermont.
I want to thank everyone at Middlebury who has contributed ideas and support for our efforts to ensure the safety and security of undocumented students. Working together, I believe we can achieve meaningful progress toward making our campus and others the inclusive places they were meant to be. My warmest wishes for a happy Thanksgiving holiday.