In support of our community

Thursday, April 4, 2019

In support of our community: an open letter

Please note: in the interim between the drafting and circulation of this letter, President Robbins has undertaken several important steps to address our concerns. Due to his message to the campus community titled 'Campus Conversations', we understand that steps are already being taken to address item 3 below. We also understand that President Robbins has met with the faculty and students in MAS to address their concerns, as described in item 1. These things occurred after the letter below was drafted and signed by members of Faculty Senate, but before our release of this letter to the wider campus community.

We include this note to acknowledge these important steps are already underway, and we look forward to the opportunity to continue to work together on these issues.

We also note that we are doing our best to ensure that all signers are members of the UA community, but we have not restricted signatures to faculty.

If you would like to add your name, and see the list of those who have signed the letter, you can do so here.  

President Robbins,

On April 1, 2019, several faculty came to open session at Faculty Senate, expressing their concern about the University of Arizona Police Department’s (UAPD) intent to press charges against two students related to an event that took place on March 19. The students protested the presence of fully armed and uniformed border patrol agents on campus, for which there was no advance communication to the UA community. Details were provided at open session that have not been shared in the media (ex., students were physically restrained by law enforcement during the incident, students have been harassed since the incident by law enforcement, students have received death threats). In response to these comments, you suggested that we (the faculty) engage in civil discourse around these issues.

Faculty in the Mexican American Studies (MAS) Department bravely took the first step toward campus discourse on April 2 by issuing a statement in support of students, and encouraging UAPD to drop the charges. They were met with death threats, evacuation of their offices, and closure of the Guerrero Student Center. These were frightening developments for our faculty and their students.

It is our responsibility as faculty to advocate for our students, and whether or not you agree with the MAS statement, these faculty are now at risk for doing their jobs. The UA community is in crisis, and we are looking to resolve this crisis. As of this writing, neither the National Institute for Civil Discourse nor the Freedom Center – which you referenced in your remarks at the Senate meeting as resources – has weighed in on this matter, nor has Ron Wilson, our new Vice President for Equity and Inclusion. Meanwhile, coverage of this incident has gone national, with coverage in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Chronicle of Higher Education.

We respectfully request the following:

  1. That you meet with faculty and students in MAS to acknowledge that any threats to their safety will be taken seriously.
  2. That you meet with the students under investigation to secure resources to ensure their safety, and to provide them with academic and other necessary support in light of the fact that they have been named in the national and local media.
  3. That you schedule public occasions for civil discourse across campus this semester so that individuals can better understand one another’s perspectives.
  4. That you allow the Dean of Students to conduct a full investigation of the incident, and make recommendations for students based on our Student Code of Conduct, which may not include criminal charges. (For comparison, in sexual assault cases, we often rely on the DOS and the Code of Conduct rather than pursuing criminalization.)
  5. That you endorse policy outlining advance communication to members of campus whenever outside speakers are invited who may incite fear, concern, or protest.
  6. That you require all visitors/campus personnel to follow our no firearms policy as required by ABOR, unless they apply for an exception 10 days prior to the intended date of visit:
  7. That you consider all of your constituents in the State of Arizona and listen to their voices. Any difficult decision needs to be made in the spirit of our land grant mission, our commitment to research and outreach at the U.S./Mexico border, and the future of the University of Arizona as an HSI and AAU member.

As faculty, we will continue to support and advocate for our students not only because it is our job to do so, but because it is our passion. And we care about them. Many of us became faculty because someone was looking out for us, in spite of potential risk or threatening situations. Now, we are all members of this community, and we need to look out for one another, regardless of citizenship status.

Thank you for being open to civil discourse and implementing concrete steps toward resolution as we navigate this important issue.

Find the list of signers here