By McKenna Middleton | News Editor, Rylee Seavers | Staff Writer
Interim President David Garland issued a statement on Monday regarding the online petition to make Baylor a sanctuary campus, stating that “it is not in the university’s best interests — nor in keeping with our legal covenants — to declare Baylor a ‘sanctuary campus’ without the proper authorization or legal authority.”
It also said that Baylor can continue to support students without the designation as a “sanctuary campus” and will strive to be a hospitable and compassionate place.
The petition was dated Feb. 6 and has reached about 1,300 signatures, it was submitted to Baylor administration on Monday, minutes before the statement was sent to students, the co-authors said. The petition asks that Baylor leadership commits to meet with student, faculty and organizations on campus to implement the requests of the petition, which include condemning the recent executive orders on immigration, and offer a position of zero tolerance of aggressions relating to immigration statueses.
“As the statement [from President Garland] says, [sanctuary] means what you put into it,” Lysen said. “And so, we want to know what do you put behind the names. What our request is, is precisely to have the kind of conversation start where we talk about what that would mean. What we hope to come out of that conversation is a more detailed, really a policy, of ‘this is exactly what our commitments are going to mean.'”
Lysen said that if someone comes on campus hat is affected by the executive order banning immigration, there needs to be a clear declaration saying “This is exactly what our support for you means. This is what you can rely on. This is what we are committing to as a university and community.”
Co-author Tom Millay said that the statement from Garland again communicated the university’s positive feelings toward the students that are affected by the executive orders, but that the petition supporters want to see those feelings backed up with actions.
“This has never been about the name sanctuary,” co-author of the petition, Laura Lysen, said.
Lysen said it isn’t enough for students to feel safe-they need to be safe. She said the petition supporters want to know specifically what Baylor will do to proactively protect students by using the full extent of the law rather than just informing them of the situation.
“Has Baylor explored its legal recourse as far as possible, in regard to protecting students as a private institution? Has it looked into how much it can do? It’s not clear from [the statement] that they have,” Millay said.
The co-authors said they hope to meet with Baylor administration as well as members of Baylor’s immigration clinic in the Baylor Law School to discuss these issues.
Both the statement from Garland and the petition co-authors cited a Christian commitment to a faith-based community influenced by Scripture, love and hospitality.
“What was released today just seems to be a comment about awareness that there is a petition, but I think what the petition is doing is saying to be a sanctuary campus is just to be a hospitable place, and both of those things are named in the response we want,” said Tyler Davis, PhD student in the department of religion and co-author of the petition. “We want to be a hospitable university, and for us that just means being a sanctuary campus.”
The statement from Garland also outlined the steps the university has already taken to make immigrants in the Baylor community feel safe, particularly through the Center for Global Engagement.
“While the executive order is still working its way through our nation’s legal system, we will continue to provide advice and support to our students and scholars whose lives may be directly impacted by it,” Garland wrote.
Opponents of the petition, including the Baylor Collge Republicans, have voiced concerns about losing federal funding because of the term “sanctuary campus.” The Baylor College Republicans said in a statement that they consider this response from the university a victory.
“We will continue to help conservative students at other universities going through the same situation we endured. Thank you, to all the Baylor alumni who reached out to me about your concerns. This victory should be short-taken as we have much more to do on campus to unite our community. Let us all continue to move forward in respectful dialogue,” the statement said.
The writers of the petition, on the other hand, said this is just the beginning. They look forward to the university responding to their petition formally and hope to set up a meeting in the near future.