University addresses concerns over undocumented students’ issue

In response to questions raised by students in recent months, University officials posted a statement affirming the University's commitment to all qualified students, regardless of their citizenship status.

University officials also pledged to highlight that commitment in materials for current and prospective students, as well as examine policies and practices to ensure that undocumented students do not face any unnecessary obstacles because of their status.

Kimberly Goff-Crews, Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students in the University, wrote in an Oct. 7 letter to the campus community that the University was committed to assembling a community of talented individuals regardless of their backgrounds, financial circumstances, or national origins.

"All students who apply, regardless of citizenship, are considered for admission and for every type of private financial aid that the University offers," she wrote.

In a separate letter (PDF) to student leaders from the University of Chicago Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Goff-Crews wrote that the University has designated Tamara Felden, the Director of the Office of International Affairs, as a point-person for all undocumented students who have questions or need support.

"We also have begun an analysis of our academic and student support policies to ensure that we do not unintentionally create stumbling blocks or otherwise disadvantage undocumented students," she wrote.

Goff-Crews met with the student group this fall to discuss the University's efforts on the issue. The group had organized a rally in May on Bartlett Quadrangle to draw attention to proposed legislation that would create a pathway for legalization of undocumented students.

Specifically, the student leaders requested a public statement in support of the Dream Act, legislation that would give legal residency to immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16 and have lived in the country at least six years.

The University will not take a political stand on the issue, Goff-Crews said. She cited the University's longstanding policy, articulated in the Kalven Report of 1967, of maintaining "an independence from political…pressures" because "[t]here is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives."

"The University of Chicago's commitment to open and free inquiry in the creation and dissemination of knowledge, which is at the heart of why we welcome undocumented students and their diversity of experience, is also the very reason we choose not to take political stands on issues of the day," Goff-Crews said.

"That said, we recognize and honor the desire of students to contribute to current policy dialogues, and I look forward to meeting with you in the near future to discuss possibilities for supporting your efforts and those of others interested in joining the conversation," said Goff-Crews.

-Sara Olkon