Daily Egyptian

GPSC decides not to make statement regarding end of DACA, will await administrative action

Members+of+GPSC+meet+for+the+first+time+this+fall+on+Tuesday%2C+Sept.+5%2C+2017%2C+at+the+Student+Center.+%28Daily+Egyptian+file+photo%29%0A
Members of GPSC meet for the first time this fall on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, at the Student Center. (Daily Egyptian file photo)

Members of GPSC meet for the first time this fall on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, at the Student Center. (Daily Egyptian file photo)

Members of GPSC meet for the first time this fall on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, at the Student Center. (Daily Egyptian file photo)

By Francois Gatimu

At its first regularly scheduled meeting of the fall semester Tuesday, the Graduate and Professional Student Council decided not to make any statements or take action in response to President Donald Trump ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

DACA was launched in 2012 following an executive order issued by President Barack Obama to protect students who were brought into the country before reaching age 16. After wrestling with the decision for months, Trump called on Congress earlier that day to find a way to replace the policy with legislation before the program fully expires on March 5.

The government will no longer accept new applications to shield young immigrants from deportation, but officials announced the current recipients of the program will not be immediately affected. 

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Council members expressed doubt about whether the statement would do any good without having a subsequent action to back it up.

“I will not take any steps until I know that the administration is making actionable steps that GPSC can participate in,” said Johnathan Flowers, GPSC president and a doctoral candidate in philosophy.

The council, which fought last year to make SIU a sanctuary campus for undocumented students, plans to continue voicing concerns for marginalized groups this semester.

“I am not going to try and make SIU a sanctuary campus since it’s covered by the TRUST Act,” Flowers said, referring to recently passed state legislation that prohibits local law enforcement officials from detaining undocumented immigrants solely because of their immigration status.

The body expressed concerns that making a statement about Trump’s decision would give students false hope.

“We just don’t want to tell students we can do this and not be legally allowed to do it,” said council member Lauran Schaefer, a doctoral candidate studying communication studies.

The graduate student governmental body will continue to support all students nonetheless, Flowers said, but will do so within their administrative limitations.

“If there is a statement, it needs to focus on student safety, and that safety on campus is always a priority,” said Sheena Hart, a law student and one of GPSC’s Graduate Council representatives.

Hart suggested offering DACA students a “know your rights” workshop as a way to back up a supportive statement by the council.

Flowers said the council will work closely with administration this semester to make sure undocumented students and other minority groups are protected and to determine the administration’s limitations in carrying out the TRUST Act. 

The group also discussed its goals for the school year. Flowers said he will focus on recognizing the diversity of the graduate student body, which will include ensuring graduate students from lower socio-economic statuses are “getting the same opportunities.”

Flowers said he wants to increase student participation in shared governance, which he has begun to do by soliciting university administration for opportunities to involve the student body in major decisions that affect them. 

“I want to ensure that the administration provides every opportunity for graduate and professional students’ participation in shared governance,” Flowers said.

He said the administration has already taken a step in this direction by adding five additional seats on the university’s Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation subcommittees.  

Also discussed was a possible meeting with Chancellor Carlo Montemagno. Flowers said the meeting, slated tentatively for Sept. 21,  would be held in conjunction with the Undergraduate Student Government to provide students an opportunity to air their questions and concerns to Montemagno in a public setting.

“Every chancellor search requires open forums with the candidates — something that we didn’t have during this chancellor search,” Flowers said.

Flowers added the process of selecting Montemagno did not sufficiently involve the student body because it occurred over the summer. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article said GPSC voted on a motion to make a statement regarding the end of DACA. The topic came up during the open comments portion of the meeting and never came to a vote. 

Staff writer Francois Gatimu can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @frankDE28.

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