As Renée Loth pointed out in her column this Saturday, many university presidents have come out in support of the DREAM Act, a bill that would give conditional legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children and who attend college or serve in the military.
In an age when university presidents tend to stay out of debates on controversial issues, Renée noted, this sort of vocal, broad-based support is rare. "Crushing administrative loads, fund-raising duties, and sometimes fear of alienating powerful constituencies has muffled the voices of academic leaders who once spoke out on issues ranging from civil rights to the Vietnam War to Supreme Court nominations." But this time around, there was this letter signed by nine university presidents across the country, and similar words of support from the presidents of Duke, Stony Brook, 17 community colleges in New Jersey, Rutgers, Purdue, University of Pennsylvania — the list goes on and on. Here in Massachusetts, the presidents of Harvard, Tufts, Boston University, Northeastern, MIT, UMass, Boston College, and the chancellor of UMass Boston all sent a letter to Senators Kerry and Brown urging them to support the bill.
While the DREAM Act has riled up so much support from people within the halls of academia, Renée's column got me wondering: Are there any college presidents — maybe from more conservative universities — who have come out against the legislation?
After spending a good amount of time Googling around, I couldn't find even one. (I did find this article listing a bunch of conservatives who support the measure, though.) So I called up the group NumbersUSA, which has been lobbying against the act. They couldn't think of any either. I put in a call for Jerry Falwell Jr., the chancellor of Liberty University, but he didn't return my call. (UPDATE: Falwell's office emailed after this post was published to say he hasn't taken a public position on the issue.)
Finally, I called up Wendy Sefsaf, communications director at Immigration Policy Center, a group that supports DREAM. She hadn't heard of any presidents issuing public statements against the legislation either, but she did have this to say about the lack of academic opposition: "It diminishes any argument that allowing undocumented students to go to college is bad for universities, in terms of economic impact, pushing other students out, or overcrowding. If it wasn't a good idea, universities and their presidents wouldn't be unanimously in support of it."