As we await word on the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, now is an opportune moment to remember the university’s core missions of supporting academic success and advancing scholarly research and teaching opportunities.
CU Boulder opens its doors to all qualified students. We believe these opportunities should be available to all, including those who were brought to the U.S. as children and are seeking full legal status.
George Norlin, the late CU president and Norlin Library namesake, noted we are a university for all people. Like Norlin, I believe anyone willing to invest in oneself through hard work and personal sacrifice should be welcomed, encouraged and supported on our campus. That sentiment applies to Colorado residents, out-of-state students, international scholars and those protected by DACA, known as Dreamers, who have found safe harbor under DACA.
Since 2012, DACA has allowed thousands of young people to work and study on college campuses across the country. However, the policy is set to expire on March 5, and DACA students are concerned about their ability to complete their degrees and support themselves amid ensuing uncertainty. That is why our university is working with partners in Congress and the national higher education associations in support of a permanent legal solution to protect Dreamers. We want all of our students to graduate on time, with CU Boulder degrees in hand, ready to be leaders in Colorado and beyond.
To help them reach their academic goals, leadership and staff at all levels on campus have worked diligently over the past year to identify campus resources for students and employees with DACA status or who are beneficiaries of Colorado’s Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow (ASSET) law. The law allows eligible undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and receive the Colorado Opportunity Fund stipend.
Exemplary efforts include Immigration Law Clinics led by CU Boulder law professor Violeta Chapin and her team of multilingual law students. They are helping students and employees renew their DACA status so they can continue their studies and advance their career paths.
Other leading contributors are the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of Financial Aid, Undergraduate Academic Advising, Continuing Education and other campus units searching for ways to support DACA and ASSET students needing guidance on fulfilling their graduation requirements. Student Affairs has extended its support through Student Legal Services, Wardenburg Health Services and the Office of Victim Assistance (OVA), among other efforts.
Central to the success of all these efforts is the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement (ODECE), whose leadership and staff work tirelessly behind the scenes to meet one-on-one with students, pointing them to campus resources and contacts, helping them stay informed.
In addition to collaborating with CU LEAD Alliance and the student-led Inspired Dreamers, ODECE spearheaded the campus’s DACA Network, a coalition of students, staff and faculty who meet to discuss challenges faced by DACA and ASSET students, working to identify and promote meaningful solutions.
At the Feb. 13 Diversity and Inclusion Summit, and on other occasions, ODECE will lead sessions for students and staff seeking to become DACA and ASSET allies. So far, more than 20 faculty members, who will participate in these sessions, have stepped up to volunteer their time and energy to serve as allies.
There are other unsung faculty and staff members from a variety of academic and administrative units and governance groups who have also devoted time serving DACA and ASSET students. While it is their job to support all students, their volunteer work has made a difference by furthering our sense of community.
Finally, I also want to recognize the guidance and support provided by the CU Board of Regents, the Office of the President and the Office of Government Relations. Last year, CU regents established a Student Relief Fund to help DACA and ASSET students. Faculty and staff members who wish to contribute can make a one-time donation or give on a recurring basis through a payroll deduction.
I encourage all who need support or those who want to contribute to visit the DACA/ASSET resources website for more information about the relief fund and other campus resources.
Regardless of the political events that transpire over the coming weeks, CU Boulder remains committed to helping DACA and ASSET students complete their degrees, and I encourage all in need of assistance to take full advantage of available campus resources, informational sessions, support meetings, immigration clinics and other outreach.
Campus allies—myself included—stand ready to provide additional support where needed. Like our DACA and ASSET students, our potential is unlimited, and there’s no telling what we can achieve if we support each other and advocate on behalf of our own.
Philip P. DiStefano,