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BOT Letter post-election actions

November 28, 2016

PSU Board of Trustees Chair, Pete Nickerson, Members of the Board, and President Wiewel:

Thank you for allowing us to share our thoughts at this time of heightened national instability. As part of the PSU community you already recognize that many individuals and groups, particularly but not exclusively members from communities of color and Indigenous communities, feel increasingly vulnerable both across the nation and on our campus. We are taking this opportunity to speak with you about our concerns; we represent the members of the School of Gender, Race, and Nations; the Child & Family Studies Program; and both the BSW Program and MSW Program from the School of Social Work.

We sincerely thank President Wiewel for declaring Portland State University a sanctuary campus on Friday, November 18, 2016.  His statement places PSU in the forefront of institutions of higher education that have taken such a principled stand. His statement included the following:

  • The Portland State University Campus Public Safety Office does not and will not enforce federal immigration laws as is required by state law.
  • Portland State University will not facilitate or consent to immigration enforcement activities on our campus unless legally compelled to do so or in the event of clear exigent circumstances such as an imminent risk to the health or safety of others.
  • Portland State University will not share confidential student information, such as immigration status, with the federal government unless required by court order.

In a spirit of collegiality, we also note that it is imperative to recognize that as long as our institutional litmus test is "unless legally compelled to do so," students who identify within politically and religiously marginalized communities may interpret our efforts as a façade. Without doubt, we have to balance the federal government's potential threat to withhold funds for non-cooperation with our responsibility to all members of the student body. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in the weeks since the election over 700 incidents of violence have been committed against LGBTQ persons, women, Muslims, and people of color. As sobering, Oregon schools report a rise in racial attacks.

We know that the Board’s Subcommittee for Academic and Student Affairs has been in conversation with some administrators.  We now respectfully ask that you, the Board of
Trustees, take the following additional actions for the well-being and safety of all PSU students, faculty and PSU community members:

  1. Create a specific administrative office to both assist our students who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by developing systematic student services that bridge academic and student affairs, and to educate the general population working at PSU on DACA, thereby raising consciousness about the history of DACA and the forms in which DACA manifests in Portland and Oregon.
  2. Invest in faculty and staff training to support undocumented and immigrant students, and to combat explicit and insidious forms of racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, trans/homophobia, and other forms of bias.
  3. Implement campus-wide training in de-escalation intervention techniques and UPstander intervention, including for PSU campus police and safety officers.
  4. Commit to providing adequate mental health services for our students, including mental health professionals who have competency in working with politically and religiously marginalized communities.
  5. Implement a forum for ongoing feedback from students, faculty and staff about campus climate and additional future actions to protect the safety and dignity of the PSU community.
  6. Conduct outreach to self-identified Muslim students to let them know that it is okay for them to report harassment and identify key people on campus who can support Muslim and Middle Eastern students. Disseminate this information.
  7. And for the Board to directly assist with fundraising through the PSU Foundation for scholarships and emergency funds for students who do not qualify for tuition equity and must pay nonresident tuition.

We, the undersigned units and individuals, are committed to using our expertise and experience in service of campus-wide efforts--many of which have already been coordinated by offices such as Diversity and Multicultural Student Services--geared towards the aforementioned objectives of developing Portland State as a Sanctuary Campus.  We turn to the Board of Trustees to provide leadership for the campus community at this most unsettling of times.

School of Gender, Race and Nations

Child & Family Studies Program

BSW Program, School of Social Work

MSW Program, School of Social Work