Editorial: DePaul must make bolder statements


We’re often asked what have we done for justice. Monsignor John Egan, who’s been immortalized as a statue in front of the Student Center, asked this question, slapping his hands together for emphasis.

We’ve asked ourselves this question, too, in times of racial discourse on our own campus and now in regards to President Trump’s executive order, issued Jan. 27, banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The ban will “to the extent permitted by law, prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” 

Two days after Trump and his administration issued his executive order that blocked travelers from re-entering the United States from seven countries on Jan. 28, Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, C.M.  and other university presidents sent out a mass email to their communities. Holtschneider’s statement to the DePaul community delivered on Monday, Jan. 30, emphasized DePaul’s unwavering support for undocumented students in times of difficulty.

“Students, faculty and staff members from the affected countries have made DePaul their home away from home — and we fully intend for that to continue. People from all countries and of all religions are welcome at DePaul. As such, we will take every action within the law to protect everyone within our community, including Muslim students, faculty and staff in the United States and from other countries, just as we remain unwavering in our support of undocumented students during these uncertain times.”

In the same email, Father Holtschneider listed DePaul’s Croak Student Legal Services, Asylum & Immigration Law Clinic, University Counseling Services and University Ministry as resources affected students could utilize. These were the same resources he offered once members of DePaul’s community questioned what change would come about DePaul’s community once the new presidential administration threatened strict, potential changes to immigration policies that would affect DACA recipients.

And, while he did cite these useful organizations, as well as the International Student Scholar Service, for any international students affected by Trump’s executive order, the email coming from the President’s Office fell short among members of the DePaul community.

Other university presidents in the Chicago-area had quicker responses, were on television news programs defending their students and were leading the charge in this form of resistance to a Presidential administration hostile toward their students. The timing of the email, in addition to the lackluster content, felt like the protection of Latinx and Muslim students was almost an afterthought. Vincentian-ism means leading the way in helping those who need protecting, and the email felt half-hearted.

His paragraph of compassion and support fell under the same, repetitive rhetoric that at this point nearly reads as a PR template.

Other Chicago based universities extensively regarded Trump’s executive order. Some even issued multiple statements to assuage any fears or concerns their students might have. The president of University of Chicago, Robert J. Zimmer, wrote a joint letter with the provost, Daniel Diermeier, directed to the campus community as well as to the White House stating:

“We understand that the motivation for recent actions concerning immigration has been a concern for national security and the threat of terrorism. We take these concerns very seriously and appreciate the need to address them. But we strongly urge that the methods of doing so be examined and thought through carefully, so that the many people who can add so much to the country through immigration have the opportunity to do so, and those who are doing so already are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

President and professor of Northwestern University, Morton Schapiro, issued two statements on Jan. 29 and 30 as as response to the controversial executive order, saying it “raises serious concerns for the entire academic community.”

“As I have said before, Northwestern is committed to being a welcoming and inclusive community for all, regardless of their beliefs. I assure you that we will take the necessary actions to protect our students, faculty and staff. In particular, we will provide support for the international students who are here (…) Knowledge knows no borders, and we all benefit greatly from the presence of the talented international students, faculty and staff who are members of the Northwestern community. I sincerely hope that the Administration quickly makes clear that this country still welcomes scholars and students from around the world, just as Northwestern University does, and will continue to do so.”

The concerns of students within DePaul’s community need to be addressed adequately. Perhaps the university intends to do more to address the issues this order brings, but if not now, when? DePaul’s resources should be used in conjunction with its authentic voice.

We fully endorse the words of Pope Francis shared yesterday in a statement by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich: “The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”

When students are feeling threatened by a hostile White House, it should be the prerogative of local leaders, including and especially university presidents, to issue strong defenses of at-risk students and to stand up in the face of injustice. Holtschneider’s email did not feel like this, but rather a flat and tepid response that did not do much to assuage students’ fears.