Craig Taylor | Staff Writer
Duquesne President Ken Gormley signed a statement in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act earlier this week.
After first refusing to take a political stance that could jeopardize the university’s federal funding, Gormley agreed to sign on after speaking with Spiritan priests, faculty and members of student government.
Gormley is one of 600 other university presidents to sign the letter, which stands behind the 2012 immigration law enacted by former president Barack Obama. The act allows illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States under the age of 16 to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action and apply for a work permit.
Gormley said that although Duquesne does not enroll any students that could be directly affected by a potential DACA repeal, he was convinced the university might one day receive applicants who do fall under DACA.
“This is directly linked to supporting immigrants to receive educational opportunities, which is directly linked to Duquesne’s Spiritan identity,” Gormley told The Duke. “[Duquesne] was created to do exactly that.”
To arrive at the decision, Gormley talked to Rev. Raymond French, members of the faculty Social Justice Association (SJA) and Student Government Association (SGA) members James Daher and Carly Koza.
Daher, who is the current SGA president, said the signing is an effective, non-partisan stance in support of those potentially affected by President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
“I think it’s the most he could do to show support for people who feel unwelcome,” he said. “DACA is already a law so he can make a statement about that and it’s a non-partisan issue.”
Both Daher and Koza agreed on the issue of supporting the DACA, and were eager to convince Gormley to sign.
“I have a hard time seeing the con to that,” Daher said.
Gormley’s initial refusal to sign the DACA statement came after a letter signed by the Faculty Social Justice Association, which requested that he sign the statement supporting the DACA.
Duquesne professor and member of the SJA Dan Selcer is pleased with Gormley’s choice.
“I personally think President Gormley’s decision to sign the DACA statement is very positive for Duquesne University,” Selcer said. “I hope this is an early step toward expanding the concrete protections Duquesne offers to vulnerable members of the campus community affected by the unfolding governmental assault on immigrants.”
He added that he believes the signatures from over 600 university presidents supporting the law is part of the reason the Trump administration hasn’t went after it.
“I suspect that the very large number of presidents from the wide array of very different universities publicly uniting behind the DACA Statement has contributed to the fact that DACA has not yet been targeted by an executive order, despite the now-President’s many campaign promises to do away with it immediately,” he said.
The SJA letter also asked that Gormley explicitly say that Duquesne will not cooperate with immigration officials unless legally compelled to by a court order. Gormley said doing so would be jeopardizing the university for no real benefit.
“I do not believe those steps are prudent and are not in the best interest of Duquesne,” Gormley said. “Those kind of steps are fraught with … legal problems.”
He added that students’ information is already protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which was one of the SJA requests.
The signing also came after the Civil Discourse Event on Feb. 13, which Gormley considers a success. The Civil Discourse Event, which featured a panel discussion on black and Muslim social issues, is something that the university president said he is particularly proud of.
He wanted to meet with SGA as soon as possible following the event, which is when Koza and Daher ultimately convinced him.
“What is in the best interest of the entire Duquesne university and family is what I [base my decisions on],” Gormley said.