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Emory faces a balancing act: Historic role in social justice; deportation of students


Emory University's multicultural student body is threatened by the potential deportation of students who are undocumented immigrants, according to a petition. Credit: emory.edu

By David Pendered

Emory University is at an interesting junction as academicians explore social issues in an era when President Trump talks about closing borders. Emory’s posture is evident in its rejection of requests to become a “sanctuary campus,” even as Emory hosts an event Wednesday to discuss the history of American civil protest.


Emory University’s multicultural student body is threatened by the potential deportation of students who are undocumented immigrants, according to a petition. Credit: emory.edu

For starters, Emory announced Jan. 18 that it will not release student records without a subpoena to law enforcement officers who intend to deport students who are in the country without documentation, according to a statement from top administrators.

The letter responds to a petition delivered to the administration that was signed by hundreds of Emory-related folks. The petition, dated Nov. 21, 2016, called on university officials to ban law enforcement officers from campus if their purpose is to apprehend and deport undocumented immigrants.

The petition cited eight other requests. It was titled, “Addressing the Need for a Sanctuary Campus and Providing Support for Undocumented Members of the Emory Community.”

The Jan. 18 letter from the administration is nuanced in the sense that the reference to requiring a subpoena to release student information came after some 500 words about services available to students who don’t have documentation, and their friends and advocates. For example:

  • “Staff and faculty across many offices and programs on campus have already begun the process of working directly with DACA and undocumented students and other community stakeholders to address issues raised in the petition. In addition, university administration has met with a number of undocumented students, sent letters outlining support services, and made phone calls to express support and discuss services available through Campus Life.
    Emory President Claire Sterk

    Emory President Claire Sterk

  • “Regarding the issue of becoming a sanctuary campus, we have heard disparate views.  While the university will not be declared a sanctuary campus, which is a phrase with no legal meaning, we remain committed to supporting undocumented students at Emory and understand the symbolic value of the term.
  • “As the university administration continues to meet with key constituents and evaluate the steps it can take in partnership with other organizations to help our undocumented community members in these uncertain times, we are writing to remind you of the many resources Emory offers to help students meet various challenges….

Coincidentally, on Wednesday Emory is hosting a speaking event on what is described as the, “American tradition of peaceful protest movements.”

The program is titled, “From Ferguson to Standing Rock: Religious Faith, Righteous Feminists and Holy Fire.” The guest speaker is Jennifer Harvey, a professor of religion at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. According to the invitation, Harvey’s work is focused on:

  • “[E]ncounters of religion and ethics with race, gender, activism, politics, and spirituality. Particularly focused on racial justice and white anti-racism, Harvey is the author of “Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation” (Eerdmans, 2014).”



David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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1 Comment

  1. Burroughston Broch January 27, 2017 4:42 pm

    If Emory continues this charade, look for the federal funding portion of their budget to decline, just like sanctuary cities.
    Elections have consequences.
    Unwise decisions have consequences.
    I would like to watch a confrontation between Emory Keystone Cops and real law enforcement. My bet would be against the Keystone Cops.Report


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