There was, presumably, a human being who wrote the email sent out to students on Sept. 5 regarding the implications of the DACA repeal. Whether this human had any particularly strong feelings on the subject remains a mystery.
Promising to “closely track” the issue over the ensuing months, the University expressed its “unqualified support” for undocumented students on campus. Here at Rochester, the email reads, “we value and support one another, even under challenging circumstances and uncertainties.” Only the blandest PR statement can look at the vast array of racist, ethno-nationalist fervor powering DACA opponents and reduce it to “challenging circumstances.”
Is a little humanity in these emails too much to ask?
The point of sending a statement with University President Seligman’s name attached to it is to convey that the gravity of a situation requires a touch only he can provide. These vague, perfunctory statements about supporting the global Rochester community might work in an admissions pitch, but when it comes to addressing students who may be facing deportation to a country their families left, if not fled, long ago, there needs to be more.
Once again, let’s look — as the administration is so fond of doing — to a peer institution for an example. Here’s the president of Cornell on the DACA repeal:
“DACA students are an integral part of our community. They were brought to this country before they had a choice in the matter, have grown up here, and are succeeding here despite significant challenges and obstacles. I believe they deserve a chance to fulfill their dreams, and this action has the potential to extinguish those dreams.”
Just the act of phrasing the statement in first person highlights an empathy that Seligman’s own lacks.
The University is limited in its ability to actually counter the effects of this repeal on our undocumented peers. No one is asking it to break any laws, nor calling for it to suddenly take the lead in combating the repeal. It’s a good thing, of course, that the University “will do everything within our legal powers to support our community and keep members safe,” as the statement reads.
But can we get a little gumption in these statements? Undocumented students aren’t facing “challenging circumstances” — they’re facing a wave of xenophobia-powered political maneuvering that is, at its core, sadistic and cruel, led by President Donald Trump and Republicans politicians. Call a duck a duck.
Express some empathy beyond the boilerplate statements. These are real people facing real consequences: address them with the empathy and respect they deserve.