Protecting All Community Members From Discrimination

December 15, 2016

Dear Wellesley community,

During times of uncertainty, we gain strength from remembering our history and our values. Wellesley College’s founding was inspired by a vision for democracy and equal opportunity for all women. For more than 100 years, Wellesley has supported and championed women’s autonomy and their intellectual and social development.

Wellesley stands committed to equity, respect, and safety for all. Our shared values require that when any of us—individually or as a group—is threatened, we must act with the power of a united voice on behalf of the rights of each and every member of our community.
On November 19, I joined with other college and university presidents in calling for the continuation and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, under which undocumented students are currently studying in the United States. I signed a statement  that asserts: “To our country’s leaders, we say that DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded…this is both a moral imperative and a national necessity. America needs talent—and these students, who have been raised and educated in the United States, are already part of our national community. They represent what is best about America, and as scholars and leaders they are essential to the future.”
Wellesley closely monitors changes to U.S. immigration laws and regulations. We also proactively take steps to promote the safety of any member of our community who may be potentially at risk as a result of changes to these laws or policies. There is much that we have already been able to accomplish and more that has recently been set in motion.
Policies and Procedures

  • Wellesley College Police will not help enforce federal immigration laws.
  • As a matter of longstanding Wellesley College policy, absent exigent circumstances, any law enforcement officials seeking to enter the campus are expected to first contact Wellesley College Police, and in cases involving undocumented individuals and the enforcement of immigration laws, will be required to obtain a warrant (or, in certain cases, a subpoena for access to records).
  • Wellesley College Police does not—and will not—inquire about the immigration status of students or any other members of our community.
  • Wellesley College administrators will not voluntarily release any information on the immigration status of any undocumented member of our community. We are in the process of confirming this policy—and a checklist of procedures—with all front-line staff to ensure all are prepared.
  • Federal law protects student, faculty, and staff privacy rights, and Wellesley College policy provides additional privacy protections as well. When College administrators receive requests for information that infringes upon individual privacy rights, they will continue their practice of working closely with legal counsel, intent on protecting the privacy of members of our community.
  • Wellesley’s admission policy is—and will remain—consistent with the College’s nondiscrimination policy. The College will continue to consider for admission undocumented applicants with or without DACA status.

Information and Resources

  • The College recently hosted a series of town hall meetings to provide our community with practical information about immigration law and policy. The  November 17 town hall meeting reviewed Wellesley’s admission and financial aid policies for undocumented students. The December 9 meeting featured two immigration lawyers who provided an overview of current immigration law and policy, illuminated how the law, regulations, and practices may change, and discussed the practical implications of such changes. They also provided a list of resources that offer free consultation with immigration attorneys.
  • Slater International Center has been an outstanding resource for all of our international students, providing general information, answers to specific questions, and all-around sound counsel. The College’s expertise in immigration is centered here. Slater also helps those on student visas comply with immigration requirements, which we expect to be increasingly important moving forward.
  • A group of alumnae from across the country have already volunteered as experts in the immigration field, creating a nascent network of pro bono resources, including legal advice for students and their immediate families. If you would like to access these alumnae services confidentially, including during winter break, please contact Karen Zuffante Pabon, director of Slater International Center and advisor to international students and scholars.
  • For any faculty or staff member who may wish to seek confidential legal and counseling support, the Wellesley College Employee Assistance program is available to work with you free of charge.

Additional Actions

  • I have been meeting and working with students and faculty, including those who helped organize the November 22 Sanctuary Campus Petition, to understand how best to collaborate in taking further action. We will convene a working group of students, faculty, and staff to respond to the needs of any undocumented members of our community—or any other community member who may be feeling vulnerable—in the days and even years ahead. 
  • We are reviewing our own policies and practices to ensure the utmost safety of our students, including any undocumented immigrant students, and we have availed ourselves of extensive legal counsel as we have examined this issue. 

We understand the stakes, and we could not take more seriously our responsibility as an institution of higher education to ensure a residential learning environment for our students that is free from hostility and fear. We will work closely with other colleges and universities, as well as with additional legal experts, to amplify our voices, to combine resources. This will better enable us to ensure all people are respected as full members of the Wellesley College community.
Some members of our community have asked that we declare Wellesley a “sanctuary campus.” We have decided not to do so for several reasons: there is no consistent definition of the term; the term carries no legal status or weight; and we believe making that declaration could lead to unintended consequences, such as potential retaliation. Please understand that making this decision does not in any way diminish our commitment to our students, faculty, and staff, and to our strongly held principles of nondiscrimination.


President Paula Johnson