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Campus Update: Embracing diversity in uncertain times

January 30, 2017

NIU President Doug Baker sent the following message to the NIU community this afternoon: 

I want to address a number of issues that I know are weighing on the minds of our university community.

Friday’s executive order signed by President Trump provides new restrictions on those traveling to and from seven different countries. I know this raises many questions and concerns for the higher education community, especially the impact it could have on some of our international students, faculty and staff.

We want to assure all members of our university community that NIU will not abandon its core value of embracing diversity in all of its forms. Each of you are valued here, and we remain committed to the ideal that we should always welcome talented individuals from around the globe to study, teach and carry out research at NIU.

As always, our goal is to cultivate a university climate where all cultures are respected, and where no one need worry about his or her status on campus because of nation of origin or a lack of citizenship documentation.

Specifically for those directly affected by Friday’s executive order, we stand ready to support and assist you. The NIU International Student & Faculty Office is assessing the situation and determining how we can best do so. The staff in that office is regularly trained to help with compliance issues, so they are the best resource for anyone with questions of that nature. Beyond that, if you feel in need of support, I encourage you to reach out to Student Affairs or any of the Campus Cultural Resource Centers.

For now, we strongly advise against international travel for students and scholars from the countries of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan and Yemen. This is in line with the guidance being offered by our peer institutions and national organizations for international education.

NIU administration also recently received a petition from a group of concerned faculty, staff and students requesting that NIU become a “sanctuary campus,” and I want to share with you our response, which was well received. The university researched and thoughtfully considered this request, but found that “sanctuary campus” is not defined by or recognized under the law and does not offer any special rights, immunities or protections to our undocumented population. While we legally cannot declare NIU a “sanctuary campus,” we pledge that we will do everything we possibly can within the limits of the law to continue to support our undocumented students.

In respect to federal civil immigration law, we hold firm that enforcement generally rests with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and not with state, local and university police. We will continue the practice of protecting all student records under FERPA laws and other regulations. We will work to create an office designed to support, advise and counsel undocumented students and we will expand ally training for faculty, staff and students to include all identities. A complete summary of our response can be found online.

Friday’s executive order has already resulted in legal challenges and calls upon President Trump to provide further clarification or reconsideration of this order. As we navigate this ever-evolving landscape, Northern Illinois University will continue to assist and support all students, faculty and staff who are important members and contributors to our diverse academic community.

We will continue to monitor this situation closely, and we will keep the university community informed of any important developments.