Since my first day as a freshman intern for the Minnesota Student Association, student government has always been about advocating to extend our rights. Sometimes that meant fighting for stronger sexual assault policies, other times it meant a tuition freeze. Every push was an effort to make the University of Minnesota a more equitable and inclusive campus for students of all backgrounds. Since January of 2016, there has been a significant shift in our advocacy priorities. Rather than advocating to extend our rights as students, our mission has changed to preserving the rights we already have and combatting false narratives about our student populations.
As students, we are constantly under attack, especially those of us that are the most vulnerable. In response to the termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, reversal of Temporary Protected Status, and the travel ban, students are drowning in uncertainty: uncertainty about whether they will be able to live in the only country they have known, uncertainty about their ability to work, their ability to financially support their academic pursuits, and uncertainty about whether they will complete their undergraduate degree, which they have worked so hard to attain. A push to support these members of our community is crucial in such a time of unpredictability.
The MSA Executive Board drafted a faculty letter, urging the University’s leadership to remove barriers to degree completion and to allow faculty to implement flexible learning plans in the event a student is no longer able to physically attend the University.
To University administrators, I ask that you streamline and prioritize proactive planning for potential outcomes, even though some outcomes are far from ideal. Let’s have a plan in place to support all members of our University community in this time of uncertainty.
Whether it is the news of Title IX, reversing the progress survivors and advocates have made when it comes to sexual assault policy, the GOP tax bill, making the goal of pursuing higher education seem more and more distant for undergraduates, or our country’s continuously changing and discriminatory immigration policy, making it clear who is and is not valued in our country, it is not the time to wait.
It is not the time to be complacent. Now is the time to prove our “University of Minnesota values” with action. Let’s set an example for public institutions all across the country and demonstrate what it means to be a member of the University community.
This letter has been lightly edited for clarity and style.
Trish Palermo is the undergraduate student body president at the University of Minnesota.