Dear Western Community,
Over the past week, I have had the opportunity to talk with numerous students, faculty and staff. I have appreciated those conversations where they have expressed their sentiments and heartfelt emotions. I have also appreciated the peaceful gatherings, conversations and forums in which our students have engaged during this time.
Nevertheless, several students and members of the Western community from diverse backgrounds and identities have shared with me their continuing feeling of fear for themselves and their future. I have heard concerns about reports of harassment and discriminatory behavior. I have also received messages from some students who feel isolated because of their conservative views and perspectives.
First, let me reiterate that harassment and discrimination has no place at Western. We, at Western, are committed to a culture of mutual respect, tolerance and understanding. We are committed to a university that is open and welcoming to all people…from all walks of life. And we are committed to the well-being and success of every Western student.
I also would like to remind us of Western’s commitment to the expression of free speech and to a learning environment where diverse perspectives are expressed and discussed with civility and respect. This is fundamental to the academic process and to Western’s commitment to open and civil discourse.
I want to be absolutely clear about Western’s commitment to protecting and providing a safe learning environment for all students. Western has supported undocumented students in the past and this commitment of support by the University for these students continues unabated. Western’s policies on disclosure of student records and immigration enforcement on campus have not changed. Western does not disclose records that reveal an undocumented student’s status without a court order or subpoena. University police, as well as the Bellingham Police, does not detain, question or arrest people on suspicion of their immigration status, or ask about undocumented status.
The Undocumented Students webpage is being enhanced to include information about legal resources, relevant University policies, connections to community resources, and a statement that I have issued re-enforcing our commitment to these students. It also includes a list of FAQs which will help address some of the concerns that have been expressed. We will continue to monitor the immigration issue at the national level so we can proactively plan for our students’ safety and support in the future.
We are in the process of putting in place new resources for students or employees who are concerned about threats, discrimination or harassment, including a telephone helpline for emotional support and referral. Details will be provided on the “Western Cares” website which will be posted on Monday, November 21.
We have many employees who have expressed a desire to support Western students. To each of you, I say thank you, and I urge you to take care of yourselves as well as each other. We are committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all students consistent with our values of inclusion, diversity and equity, and which protects the privacy of our students. I remain confident that the Western community will continue to come together to demonstrate our core values rooted in respect, understanding and compassion.