Murray joins Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration

Claire Ommen, News Reporter

Whitman College President, Kathy Murray, recently joined the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. The Presidents’ Alliance is an alliance of leaders of American colleges and universities that advocates collectively for Dreamer, immigrant, undocumented, and international students.

According to a press release by the Presidents’ Alliance, the group aims to “support adoption of the best practices on campuses and work in a unified manner to communicate the need for federal and state policies that create a welcoming environment for immigrant, undocumented and international students.”Chloe Carothers-Liske

In addition to policy lobbying at both the state and federal level, The Presidents’ Alliance provides resources and educational opportunities to its member institutions to help Dreamer, immigrant, and international students succeed in higher education.

The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration represents both concrete support for these students, as well as a symbolic statement of support in academia. Since the election of President Trump, that role has become integral. Trump’s recent announcement to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), as well as general calls to tighten immigration policy and to include funding for a border wall in any immigration bill have contributed to increasing anxiety over the status of immigrants in America.

President Murray’s action is partially a response to this broader political climate. “Whitman has a long history of supporting undocumented students, and we leaned in in support of our DACA students as soon as their status was called into question,” said Murray regarding her decision to join the Presidents’ Alliance.Chloe Carothers-Liske

According to both Kathy Murray and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Kazi Joshua, Whitman has historically supported immigrant and undocumented students.

“Whitman, going back really to the 1990s, began without a lot of fanfare to admit talented students without regard to their immigration status. That’s a long tradition,” said Joshua.

He went on to explain that President Murray’s decision is in line with the past policies of the college, and that the Presidents Alliance is “simply an amplification. Connecting with other presidents of colleges, on the policy front, collectively can make a broader impact.”

This statement reflects the goals of the Presidents’ Alliance itself.

In the past, Whitman has not made its support for immigrant or undocumented students well-publicized, and President Murray’s decision to join the Presidents’ Alliance represents a shift from this position. Vice President Joshua explained that this shift was a timely reaction to the changing political climate surrounding immigration.

“As things in recent times began to become much more controversial around Dreamers there’s clearly a commitment on the part of students and faculty that Whitman should continue to be a place where students-irrespective of their immigration status-could come and be able to study,” said Joshua.Chloe Carothers-Liske

“[President Murray’s decision] has come up at this time because of the national political climate, and because we really believe that Dreamers are at risk, or the American Dream is at risk for those who aspire to be educated, and believe that that is the way to contribute to society,” said Joshua in explaining the importance of this decision.

In a statement sent by email to The Wire, the Borders as Method club (BAM) expressed support for President Murray’s decision to join the Presidents’ Alliance. However the club also voiced concerns about the current attitudes surrounding diversity at Whitman.

“We sincerely hope that President Murray’s decision to join this alliance will be more than a symbolic gesture… it is unclear what impact this decision will have on our campus, particularly given the broad mission of the Alliance,” the statement read.

While BAM is enthusiastic about this more overt step to support immigrant, undocumented and Dreamer students, the club also questioned the motives behind such support at Whitman College.

“We believe that all students and people deserve to live in a safe environment and to be treated with dignity, regardless of whether or not those in power deem them to sufficiently contribute to our society. We hope to challenge the figure of ‘the good immigrant’ and the notion that immigrants must constantly prove their worthiness of basic human rights by contributing to economic growth and providing a sense of ‘diversity’ and multiculturalism, without challenging injustice,” the statement read.

This concern is based upon the stated goals of the Presidents’ Alliance, which focuses on the contributions of Dreamer and immigrant students to educational institutions and society at large. BAM is reluctant to vocalize their support for President Murray’s decision until it becomes clear what real impact the Presidents’ Alliance will have on the Whitman Community.

The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration is a positive step for Whitman College, and is an important organization on the national scale. It’s impact on Whitman College specifically, however, is still unclear.

Chloe Carothers-Liske
Pictured here are signs drawn up by Borders as Method (BAM). BAM has organized rallies and other events in support of undocumented students in addition to criticizing immigration policy such as the use of privately run detention facilities.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article attributed comments made by BAM to club member Julie Kitzerow ’18. The statement was expressed from BAM as a collective, not specifically from Kitzerow. The mistake has been corrected.