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Responding to Trump: Letter from Davis UWP Faculty to Interim Chancellor Hexter


Dear Interim Chancellor Hexter,

In the wake of the election, several of us in the University Writing Program have been strategizing our response, and the response we hope the university will adopt.

These are our thoughts:

1. We know that DACA is going to be ended. What we do not yet know is whether the many thousands of students, in CA and elsewhere, who have come out of the shadows in recent years, enrolled in universities, and received institutional support, will be immediately targeted. Given Trump’s rhetoric, however, as well as the track-record of many of his key advisors and transition team figures, we have to assume the worst:

We therefore strongly urge that UC Davis, and the UC system as a whole, pledge non-cooperation. This would include no sharing with immigration authorities of our data on undocumented students and their families; no access onto campus for roving deportation teams; the declaration of the campus as a sanctuary space – meaning that students who feel endangered can, if need be, move into classrooms and offices on campus, much as many churches around the country have opened their rooms up as sanctuary quarters for at-risk immigrants. And it would involve the creation of teams of students, faculty and staff, who would rotate as protection-pickets, literally standing guard to protect our students. Would this stop a determined deportation action? Probably not, but we could slow the process down and force the government to arrest dozens of people for each student they deported.

2.  We pledge non-cooperation with any attempt to register Muslim students, faculty, or staff in a “registry.” Furthermore, we pledge that if the government does require Muslims to register en masse, we as members of a pluralist, diverse, campus, will ALL register. It was such actions in Nazi-occupied Denmark, when all citizens from the king on down donned the Star of David, that saved the Danish Jewish population from extinction.

Similarly, we pledge to disrupt, by any peaceful means necessary, any attempt to restrict the rights – be they residential or professional – of Muslims in America, as well as to engage in mass civil disobedience should there be any attempt to intern Muslim-Americans, or some portion of the Muslim-American population, as some in the alt-Right movement have talked about in recent years and as some of Trump’s advisers have discussed in recent interviews.

We pledge non-cooperation with any attempt to force universities to deny Muslims access to “sensitive” areas of study, be they nuclear physics or cryptography. And we pledge not to honor such bans in employment or in student admissions, even if it results in a loss of federal funds.

3.  Some in Trump’s team, including Newt Gingrich, have openly talked about creating a 21st century version of the House Un-American Activities Committee. To the shame of the academic establishment, during the McCarthy years many fine academics were blacklisted, and, despite tenure protections, were fired by their universities.

Given the real risk here, we demand that the university pledges non-cooperation with a blacklist. We know that certain departments – Middle-Eastern Studies, Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies, American Studies, History, Politics, Journalism and others – are likely to be at particular risk of political purges at institutions around the country. We therefore urge our campus to coordinate strategies of non-cooperation not just with other U.C.s, but with campuses around the country.

4.  Finally, we will immediately start coordinating with other departments and student organizations to organize a massive wave of teach-ins at the start of the winter quarter. We will model this on the Dissent Lectures that followed from the Pepper Spraying incident. We intend to educate our community about the dangers of this moment and to begin an ongoing process of resistance to the deeply authoritarian and bigoted policies that Trump has indicated will be enacted over the coming months and years.

We know that specific groups of students, and members of the general population, have been targeted in the past – for example, Iranian students during the 1979 hostage crisis; Japanese-Americans during World War Two; Chinese-Americans after the Chinese Exclusion Act, as well as anarchists, communists and suspected fellow-travelers during the Red Scare following World War One and during the McCarthy era in the late 1940s and 1950s. We hope such a wave of discrimination is not about to descend on the country again, but we fear that it is, in fact, likely to occur. Given this reality, we demand the university prepares for the worst and builds up the maximum possible protection for our students and their families, as well as our staff and faculty.

We look forward to your response.

Sasha Abramsky

Ken Andersen

Rebekka Andersen

Jillian Azevedo

Melissa Bender

Alison Bright

Amy Clarke

Elizabeth Constable

Pamela Demory

Aliki Dragona

Julian Elias

Sarah Faye

Jamie Ferrando

Catherine Hatzakos

Cassie Hemstrom

Sophia Jin

Elain McCollom

Sean McDonnell

James McElroy

Gregory Miller

Heather Milton

Miles Miniaci

Matthew Oliver

Randeep Padda

Danielle Schmidt

Bradley Sekedat

Theresa Walsh

Karma Waltonen