Middlebury College Students Ask President Ronald Liebowitz To Support the DREAM Act

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ACTION: Support Middlebury College Students as they ask their President to come out in support of the DREAM Act by emailing Barbara McBride (mcbridge@middlebury.edu)

Students in the Northeast have been busy.  I've been in touch with students from at least half a dozen colleges here that are pushing to make their schools be more supportive of the DREAM Act.  A friend of mine from Middlebury College in Vermont, Cedar Attanasio, has asked me to publish his letter to President Ronald Liebowitz asking him to come out in support of the DREAM Act.  Attanasio also wrote me in an email to say they've been getting "tons of student signatures, the student government is with us, and we're pushing the prez again on Tuesday."  Combined with our recent efforts at Harvard, it looks as if a movement is rising across the northeast.  Below is Attanasio's letter:
Dear President Liebowitz,

I am writing in hopes that you will openly support the DREAM Act, which was introduced to the U.S. Senate last month. I am a concerned student and citizen who is actively engaged in the immigration debate.

From growing up in an immigrant community, to academic research in geography, to leading a service trip of Middlebury College students to Mexico this spring, I have been actively involved in this issue for many years. I am compelled to bring the DREAM act to your attention for a number of reasons, and strongly encourage you to endorse it formally and immediately. Specifically, the DREAM act would give legal protection to American high school students that immigrated illegally to the U.S. before the age of sixteen, and have a clean criminal record. It would allow them to:

  • Receive federal and state financial aid -> able to attend schools that accept them.
  • Acquire temporary residency while they attend school -> have legal protection.
  • Become U.S. citizens -> pursue their careers in the U.S.
Consider the current de facto system of socioeconomic discrimination against undocumented students who graduate from an American high school. No law prevents undocumented migrants from attending universities, yet they are not allowed to receive federal financial aid. With the exception of ten states who have redefined residency as graduation from a local high school, they must all pay out-of-state tuition.

As a result of this double-fisted financial inequity the majority of undocumented students try their best to attend institutions like Middlebury College, where our commitment to diversity and our successful endowment have created our need-blind policy.  But our need-blind policy doesn't apply to these students. Even though we try to meet everyone's financial need, we can't afford to pay for every student in the world without federal financial aid or a Davis scholarship.

Essentially, the current immigration system discriminates against our prospective students. It directly attacks our goals outlined in the Strategic Plan, especially #7 "increasing the socio-economic diversity of the student body", and #8 "recruiting and retaining students of color". Due to the fact that current immigration law discriminates against people who belong to two or more these categories, it opposes our goals.

Despite the immense challenges they face, a number of undocumented students are attending universities and liberal arts colleges as you read this letter. The numbers are unknown, and few admissions offices keep statistics. The most high-profile is Harvard University, which is known to have somewhere around ten undocumented students.

Yet even the persistent and the fortunate that penetrate this net of obstacles face hardships unknown by their peers. In effect, undocumented students at American liberal arts colleges are second-class citizens. Just think of the implications of their illegal status.

Unlike international students, who can perform work-study, undocumented students have no legal way to earn spending money. They are constantly fearful of deportation. Being prohibited from studying abroad they are barred from majoring in international studies or languages, not to mention the holistic experience that other students get to enjoy. Even after they graduate, undocumented alumni cannot work in U.S., and many are unable to pursue careers in their fields of study because of their citizenship status.

From what I've seen in the media, educational journals, and books dedicated to the subject is the educational community shares a consensus that the DREAM Act is a no-brainer1. Just last week, the Chancellor of UC-Berkeley appeared on ABC news endorsing the DREAM act. Even educational organizations of which Middlebury College is a member of such as the NACAC and ENACAC are openly supporting the DREAM Act.

I realize that this may not be a matter of merely uncapping your pen. I acknowledge the pressure that you face when making a decision like this one. Can a presidential endorsement overstep your bounds? Would your voice, if too opinionated, discourage minority views on the campus? For example, we certainly wouldn't want you to endorse SGA candidates or individual political parties.

I also understand that you must maintain close relations with our donors--mostly alumni--who come from diverse political backgrounds. When it comes to polarizing political issues, I see how an over-opinionated administration could be counter-productive in expanding the endowment.

However, when I look at the history of Middlebury College and our role on the national stage today, I see an institution that takes an active role in the national consciousness.
In recent history, you and President McCardell have been especially outspoken on issues that affect the campus and its students, and have used your voices to further the interests of tertiary education and the nation at large.

The Amethyst Initiative is a great example of this, where Middlebury College has taken a leading role in questioning the reasoning behind our nations drinking laws has had a profound affect on the national conversation. Considering that more than 100 schools have joined us in this effort, I think it shows that when we focus on our interests--students and education--we are usually on the right track.

Our explicit comment to diversity as stated in the Strategic Plan is not a private commitment. When it comes to our concern for health or diversity, we can't just preach to the choir.  In this important point in history, we can help shape a diverse and dynamic student body on our campus and at schools across the country.

On May 1st, the traditional protest day of the immigration movement, students across America will be lining the streets, filling out petitions and sending letters to make sure that their voice is heard. Please join us by issuing a statement for the press in support of the DREAM Act.

Cedar Attanasio

In concurrence:

Juana Thomas
Alianza Latina y Caribeña

Ana Guerrero
Alianza Latina y Caribeña

Felipe Guevara
Distinguished Men of Color

Dane Verret
Distinguished Men of Color

Kasima Brown
Middlebury Asian Students Organization

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on May 3, 2009 4:45 PM.

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