By Joseph Foard | Staff Writer

On the evening of Oct. 29, a weekly meeting of the Associated Students Senate passed a resolution urging the Saint Mary’s College administration to officially declare Saint Mary’s a sanctuary campus. “Associated Students of Saint Mary’s College of California…hereby call for the administrative body to accept in totality all rights and responsibilities of a sanctuary campus,” the resolution’s text reads.

“A sanctuary campus means a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” said Emily Gisler, class of 2019 Senate Chair and author of the resolution. “Really, a sanctuary campus would mean that we are protecting our vulnerable students…It’s really just creating a space where we’re protecting our most vulnerable students, faculty, and staff.”

“The talk of a sanctuary campus has been going on for a while,” said Megan Crain, Vice President of Administration for the Associated Students. “It didn’t start this year—I would say it started before this academic year. However, especially with the repeal of DACA, we definitely saw an increase of student concern regarding sanctuary campus status,” said Crain. “[During] the circle we had out in Dante Quad…around September when we were talking about DACA, we had several senators present taking notes, and this was something when they talked to their constituents a lot of people thought was very important. So that’s where it came from originally, and once we wrote down the students’ concerns we started researching, and this was the product.”

“Last academic year, there was a big push by some of the student activism around campus to create a sanctuary campus, and there was a petition that went around,” said Gisler. “I’m not sure how many signatures were on it, but I know there was an inordinate amount of support for that…and nothing happened as a result. [The College administration] released several statements saying they were doing their best to create a safe space and have our campus be one of sanctuary, but they wouldn’t officially accept that title of sanctuary campus, so I felt it necessary to have that resolution to recommend that they claim that title publicly.”

Dissent toward the resolution existed, but so far the resolution also has a substantial amount of support. “During every Associated Students Senate meeting,” Gisler explained, “there is a portion called ‘public forum,’ where…any person may come forward and address the Senate directly. During that, I believe that we had one student speak out against the resolution, and their concerns that there would be in conflict with federal law.”

The Meeting Minutes for the Oct. 29 Associated Students Senate meeting described three students speaking during the public forum segment, the first of which “did not speak in affirmative” while the second and third were “supportive.” “He was the one person that spoke against,” Crain confirmed of the first student that spoke, “and then after him we had two students that spoke for [the resolution].”

Although the resolution urges the campus administration to declare themselves a sanctuary campus, it does not have the power to make that declaration itself. “When the Associated Students passes a resolution, if it deals with something that maybe the higher administration needs to see, it is considered a recommendation,” Gisler said. “The passing of the resolution doesn’t legally declare that we are a sanctuary campus; that would be a decision made by the President’s Cabinet. But the resolution was a recommendation that the [administration] start implementing active policies that would protect civil rights, educational rights, equal access…So it really is a recommendation for not necessarily policy change, but a more active policy enforcement.”

“Now that this has been passed,” Crain said, “it will be presented to the President and his cabinet, and we will expect a response, and we’re hoping that they approve it and they embrace the label…they’re gonna be the ones who are making any sort of permanent changes or statements, but this document can only exist as a recommendation.”

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