Message from University leadership: Response to petition on undocumented students

Dear Campus Community:

We are writing to respond to concerns about the future of undocumented students at Carolina expressed in a December 5 petition signed by faculty, students and other members of our community.

Fostering a welcoming, safe and inclusive campus environment for everyone at Carolina is of paramount importance to us. Last month, we and the deans sent an email message affirming a commitment to our policy on nondiscrimination and our statement on core diversity values. At last month’s Faculty Council meeting, several administrators, law enforcement officials and faculty members made strong statements about how our campus supports undocumented students.

Carolina’s efforts to support these important members of our community have been ongoing for years. For instance, at the federal level Carolina has supported the DREAM Act, the legislation that would provide undocumented college students with an eventual path for citizenship. Chancellor Folt recently joined more than 400 college presidents who signed a statement of support for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative for undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. as children and are studying and living at colleges and universities across the country.

Our University must comply with all federal and state laws, including regulations that address immigration, and this is consistent with the vast majority of public and private higher education institutions across our nation. Moreover, North Carolina law prohibits both counties and towns from adopting sanctuary-type protections.

At the same time, we staunchly protect the legally mandated privacy rights of our students and employees. A student’s immigration status is protected under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). In recent years, the University has defended lawsuits when media organizations attempted to access students’ educational records in violation of FERPA. It also is important to know our UNC police department does not gather information about citizenship or immigration status, and only makes inquiries about individuals who are the subject of a felony criminal investigation.

Student Affairs and UNC Global provide a full array of resources for students. For legal assistance, including immigration questions, students can contact Carolina Student Legal Services. They are prepared to refer students to other attorneys with expertise in immigration matters on a case-by-case basis. Carolina Student Legal Services also hosted a forum on campus earlier this week featuring an outside immigration law attorney to answer questions from campus community members. Another session may be offered early next semester.

Students who have questions about immigration regulations and related options also may contact International Student and Scholar Services. Students also can receive support through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) in Campus Health Services or the Office of the Dean of Students.

Our Carolina Conversations series launched last year and the Faculty Council’s diversity syllabus discussions have focused on a variety of related issues including safety, inclusive classroom environments, academic freedom, implicit bias, stereotyping and labeling.  Speakers and panelists have explored the concerns some people in our community have shared about not always feeling understood or welcome.  We are planning more educational development opportunities and sessions for the campus in the coming months.

While we are unable to speculate about future changes to immigration laws or policies, we want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to support all of our students and to ensure that every member of our campus community can live, study and work without fear on a safe and caring campus.

Sincerely,

Carol L. Folt
Chancellor

James W. Dean, Jr.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Kevin Guskiewicz
Dean and Distinguished Professor, College of Arts and Sciences