Previously published in The Campus
Some historical moments demand an immediate response. These situations incite reactions in living rooms, classrooms, and courtrooms. When President Donald Trump’s recent executive order suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days and blocked entry from seven Muslim majority countries for 90 days, it also created an atmosphere of resistance across the nation, and the world.
The City University of New York, and City College alike are devoted to the protection and education of all undocumented students. Together, they refuse to conform to any hateful rhetoric coming from the White House.
In the past several weeks, Interim President Vincent Boudreau has publicly opposed Trump’s executive order, hosting town hall meetings, and posting on social media. Three days after the White House issued the executive order, Boudreau sent out a detailed e-mail to all students explaining the actions CUNY and CCNY are taking.
“The anger and resistance that this order sparked has been deeply gratifying for me, because it speaks to the generosity of spirit that I trust still lies in the heart of this nation, and I know is second nature to the people I work with, and the people who come to learn on this campus,” he wrote to the student body.
The interim president continued on, introducing “WeAreOneCCNY,” an addition to the City College website. This page contains “the best information we have on what’s happening to erode the rights and status of our immigrant brothers and sisters and to venues being set up to resist that erosion.”
Boudreau ends his message by ensuring that CUNY and CCNY will “not surrender [their] values.” He promises that the current administration at City College will continue to mobilize the energy of the campus, and wants to make sure all students, undocumented or not, can continue to prosper and inspire at City College.
Out of the 109 CUNY students from the banned countries, 66 of those attend CCNY. “This issue is a CUNY issue yes, but it is predominantly a City College issue,” he states.
In regards to the process of immigration law, Boudreau points out many misconceptions. “Everybody kind of imagines immigration as storming the gates, and like going into classrooms and taking people out. That is probably not how it is going to go.”
Immigration law is enforced much more calmly in educational situations. Most likely, a government official will come into the college with an administrative warrant.
With this, they do not have access to student records protected by FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). Boudreau and his administration have made it clear that they “will not participate in the enforcement of immigration law.”
Yet, this would change if they return with a court ordered search warrant. By refusing to divulge information, they are committing an act of civil disobedience. Boudreau admits that he cannot ask anyone on campus to commit that act.
“It sucks, because you would love to say, as a sanctuary campus, we will lock the gates and no one will come in, and you can sleep in the cafeteria and you will be absolutely safe.” With this reality, he encourages all students to “know their strategies” and “be smart about their own futures.” Whether that be “keeping their head down” or “flying below the radar.”
Moving forward, Boudreau is ready to fight, and he encourages students to do the same. But what steps do we take? He suggests that students protest, be passionate about others, and advocate for tangible moves towards change.
“There is a time for protest, where you’re actually saying to someone in authority, ‘I disagree with you’, and what you hope when you protest is that someone is going to say ‘You’ve convinced me. I’m going to change.’ If you don’t think an authority is going to change, then you have to start thinking about actual resistance.”
Our institution is based in the inclusion of all individuals. Boudreau knows CCNY’s history and notes that one can “read the founding documents of City College and they are absolutely a world map for what we should be doing right now.” As students at City College today, we need to embrace these traditions and fight for the rights of our peers.
Boudreau goes on to say that this resistance begins with us, and our voice in society. “I think as people with voices, we just have to keep raising them.” If Trump reinstates the travel ban, we as a college need to “hammer on that ban.” Individuals not directly affected by immigration law must also “consider the possibility that in the next four years, people on this campus may need actual help.” If a student needs to sleep on someone’s couch, or vulnerably request any other aid for their day to day life, they need to know that there are people readily available to help them.
He warns us to be steadfast in our activism. “We have to work everyday to construct this community… We have to fight the fatigue that sets in three months out, four months out, eight months out.”
Jeremy Travis is President of John Jay and a close colleague of Boudreau. When giving Boudreau advice on being a college president, he states, “Your biggest asset is your voice, and you have to use every opportunity to speak to the campus about things that matter.”
We as students, and citizens, are living in a pivotal moment in history. How we respond to oppression and racist implications says a lot about who we are as a generation, as a community of student scholars, and as members of the legacy of City College.
Design by Carmen Quang
Photo by Anthony Viola