Following the election of Donald Trump, Alisa Slaughter, Associate Professor in the Creative Writing department, authored a public letter to University President, Ralph Kuncl, about the new administration’s effect on campus culture. The letter, inspired by a Facebook post from historian, Timothy Synder, who encouraged people to hold our institutions accountable, was a response to the letter President Kuncl sent to the University community the day after the Election. Slaughter shared her letter publicly shortly after. Now that President Trump has taken office and has began making federal orders, it is time for institutions and individuals to take action on their political stands.
“Individuals can be more forceful than institutions,” Slaughter said. “President Kuncl has to think about everybody on campus, including people who don’t share my politics, so he has to be equivocal, he has to sort of go down the middle. But I don’t. I can stand for what I think and I can ask my institution to consider what I think.”
Slaughter was particularly interested in Trump’s positions on undocumented residents, and asserted that the University should be supportive of students and employees enrolled in DACA and DAPA. Obama administration’s DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allows undocumented residents that arrived in the United States as minors to receive a renewable two-year deferment of deportation, and allows enrollees to obtain a valid work permit. DAPA, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, gives deferred action to undocumented immigrants with children who are United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.
“I think, in the future, we need to think about how this cultural shift and political shift might affect our employees especially,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter brought up an example of a worst case scenario, in which a deportation of a student not protected under DACA occurred, and that under those circumstances, there tuition could potentially be refunded immediately for the semester. In addition, Slaughter states that the University should do what it can to help these students continue their education, whether it be helping them financially or ensuring their education is not disrupted. Slaughter also states that she encourages the University’s contractors (Particularly Bon Apetit and Barnes and Noble) to follow these ideals.
“This is something that we should really think seriously about and not only about our legal responsibilities and remedies, but also our campus culture,” Slaughter said.
In addition to non-citizen students and employees, Slaughter also discusses the need to support alumni currently serving in the military that do not wish to serve under the new administration. Slaughter suggests that, for people that fall under this category, the University should offer delays or financial support in paying student loan debt.
Despite being a self-proclaimed pacifist, Slaughter realized while reflecting on institutions that she values, she finds it important to advocate for military personnel. Therefore, Slaughter believes that the University needs to give graduates the tools to resists certain aspects of military culture that may seem dangerous or inhumane. In the letter, Slaughter refers to the fact that Trump has made statements in support of torture and other extreme measures by the military. Therefore, Slaughter would like the University to commit to inviting counter-recruiters from the American Friends Service Committee that could visit campus whenever military recruiters are scheduled to visit. This would serve to promote values of peace and justice. Slaughter would also like the school to commit to helping any alumni wanting to end military service ahead of schedule. Slaughter also mentions offering networking events for these veterans and recent graduates who choose to leave the military.
In reference to Trump’s campaign promise of a “Muslim Registry”, Slaughter says that the school should do everything in its power to protect the religious freedom and privacy of people in the community. She includes refusing federal funding as an option of resisting.
Slaughter acknowledges that her position as a private person and employee allows her to say certain things that the general Faculty Senate, or even non-tenured faculty, cannot.
Slaughter said that she received a polite response from President Kuncl’s office and that he made it clear that as President of the University, during this political time, he has a lot to deal with and consider. Although she said she does not feel that most of her suggestions will be enacted, she would like to personally go on the record thinking that this would be the ideal reaction to the election and presidency of Donald Trump.
Following Slaughter’s letter to President Kuncl, another letter written and signed by a group of faculty members was sent to President Kuncl as well.
Below is a copy of Slaughter’s letter.
“An open letter to President Ralph Kuncl,
Dear Dr. Kuncl,
I read with interest your response to the campus on Nov. 9, the day after the election. It is understandable that you would want to strike a conciliatory and open tone so soon after a bitterly contested period. I believe that this statement could evolve into something more complete, and would like to propose the following:
The president-elect has made several campaign promises concerning the deportation of undocumented human beings now living, working and studying in this country. The University of Redlands affirms its commitment to internationalization and its values as an inclusive learning community by repudiating this priority and calling for humane and realistic immigration reform. We commit to protecting our students and employees to the furthest extent of the law, and ask the local law enforcement agencies to exercise restraint and caution, taking a cue from the statement of the Los Angeles Chief of Police on Nov. 16, 2016, and the LAPD Special Order 40 of 1979, which directs officers to refrain from asking people for their papers or otherwise taking a role in immigration enforcement.
Furthermore, we affirm the value of our students and employees no matter what their immigration status or that of their families. If any student or member of their family is deported, the University of Redlands commits to refund and waive all fees for the semester, and do everything in its power to reduce the damage to the student’s education, up to and including offering options for online completion of courses. Any employee affected by a family member’s deportation or other immigration issue will not be subject to any disciplinary action, including notation in their employment record. We ask our contractors (Barnes and Noble and Bon Appetit in particular) to affirm these values, and to make the information available in English, Spanish, and any other languages widely used by their employees.
The president-elect has made several statements in favor of torture and other extreme measures by our military and secret service operatives. With this in mind, we commit to inviting counter-recruiters from the American Friends Service Committee to visit campus whenever military recruiters are scheduled to visit campus. In addition, we commit to providing training to our students in all three schools with education and resources to use should they enter public or private school teaching or administration and wish to invite counter-recruiters to their campuses.
Furthermore, we commit to accommodating any alumni who may wish to end military service ahead of schedule and need delays or alternate means of paying student loans. We commit to offering networking events for veterans and recent graduates who leave military service ahead of time.
The president-elect has made several statements regarding the religious affiliation of both citizens and visitors to our country, including developing a registry for people of the Muslim faith. Our institution has formal and informal access to the religious preferences of our students. We pledge to resist any attempt to violate the religious freedom and privacy of anyone in our community, including their families, up to and including the refusal of federal funding if it is contingent on any such cooperation.
The president-elect has made statements regarding various aspects of our country’s long-cherished values, which protect both citizens and non-citizens. We affirm that any member of the campus community has the right to peacefully demonstrate for any reason, we affirm a strong and independently-chartered student press, and we affirm the relevance of all aspects of a liberal arts and an ethically-grounded professional education equally. The university pledges to maintain and augment its office of Diversity and Inclusion and other projects and curricular offerings that could provide insight and stability during an unpredictable time.
The president-elect has pledged to repeal or change various laws concerning health insurance and access to certain medical services. The university in turn pledges to take any necessary measures to provide its students with access to medical care that is based on science and the needs and priorities of the patient.
On a more personal note, it is striking that you sent your communication from Cuba, where a right-wing dictatorship was replaced by a left-wing dictatorship, both of them riddled with corruption and disregard for the rule of law and human rights. I would characterize that as going beyond a mere ideological rift.
Associate Professor, Creative Writing
University of Redlands
An unsigned version of this letter is available on the university’s one-drive feature. Anyone in the university community who would like access may send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org“