Anti-immigrant posters incite debate, but no administrative response
January 25, 2018
Almost a year to the day white supremacist flyers and stickers were found around campus, members of the Santa Clara community were once again left reeling when anti-immigration posters were found late Sunday night.
According to a Campus Safety report from Jan. 21, a student was observed via video camera posting flyers in Benson Center and the Learning Commons. The flyers were removed and an investigation is being conducted.
“All day long, I’ve been exhausted,” sophomore Annalicia Anaya said, one of the students who first discovered the flyers. “I can’t sleep. I haven’t been able to sit down and do my homework.”
The posters are part of a far-right, worldwide effort on college campuses to spout anti-immigrant rhetoric. The flyer features the outline of the United States, with a frowning cartoon face and the American flag superimposed on the map. Hands grip the bottom portion of the country, as though blocking access to Mexico. The wording on the poster—“NO means NO!” and “#MyBordersMyChoice”—is a nationalist twist on feminist slogans.
“The message demeaned sexual assault on top of being insulting to immigrants on this campus,” sophomore Gabriela Morales said, Feminists For Justice program coordinator. “The school hasn’t said anything about the incident, and the burden has fallen on student organizations to once again expose the ignorance on campus.”
Last year, a similar incident occurred when flyers advertising a white supremacist group called Identity Evropa were found in Kenna Hall, Locatelli Center and the Ethnic Studies and Women and Gender Studies departments. This came on the heels of a fall quarter riddled with acts of discrimination—the vandalization of the 43 students memorial, a swastika written in blood on an elevator of Casa Italiana Residence Hall, as well as homophobic slurs posted on a Casa bulletin board.
In response to this latest incident, Latinx union MEChA El Frente and the Multicultural Center (MCC) created a flyer featuring the monarch butterfly, a symbol of hope for immigrant communities. The flyer also bears the words “Immigrants Are Welcome Here” so allies can show visible solidarity. The same statement was posted up as a banner on a window of the MCC early Monday morning.
Unity 4 held a meeting on Jan. 22 to discuss the posters. MEChA El Frente also held a support session on Jan. 23, emphasizing that the meeting was not to debate immigration policy, but rather to dedicate the time to healing and mobilizing.
Across both meetings, students expressed frustration at the lack of statement from university President Michael Engh, S.J. Others stressed that a statement would no longer be enough and that change was necessary.
“The university does not understand the impact incidents like this cause,” said MCC Director Zerreen Kazi. “It’s not our job to cater to their lack of understanding; it is their job to make us feel heard.”
As of press time, administration personnel had yet to release a statement.
The student groups also deliberated over action plans and ways to move toward a peaceful response during the meetings. The importance of intergroup partnership and unity even within the MCC was a topic of discussion, as well as having systems in place to proactively respond to incidents in the future.
One suggestion in particular had to do with Shapell Lounge, home of the MCC. The university currently owns Shapell, meaning that the MCC is restricted in two main ways. First, they must seek admin approval for any decorations and posters hung in or around the building. Second, after 5 p.m. on Fridays and during the weekends, anyone can hold an event in the lounge by going through the regular booking process. This is because Shapell Lounge was originally created as a commuter lounge—but there already is a commuter lounge in Graham Residence Hall.
“It makes us feel like even within the space that’s supposed ours, it’s not technically ours,” said MEChA-El Frente CoChair Alex Hall-Rocha. “If an organization holds an event there that is completely against the values of the MCC, it’d be a slap in the face.”
After the MEChA meeting and again on Jan. 24, the Undocumented Students and Allies Association (USAA) hosted a workshop to make pro-immigrant artwork as a way of supporting targeted communities. The group plans to display the artwork in Benson and St. Joseph’s Hall to show the impact this incident has had on many community members.
“The artwork is meant to give people an outlet to express their feelings, and support immigrants, women, and people of all identities,” senior Marlene Cerritos said, co-president of USAA. “It’s a creative form of activism to the hateful messages that keep being sent to the immigrant community. Especially since administration hasn’t said anything in regards to the incident, even though Fr. Engh said he would support DACA students.”
Engh’s statement was sent out to students on Sept. 5, 2017—the day President Trump repealed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). His statement expressed his “commitment to all students, regardless of the journey they have taken to join us at Santa Clara” and promised to “provide a safe environment for DACA students to continue their pursuit of higher education.”
On a Jan. 11 campuswide email, Engh made a similar statement of support with regards to 200,000-plus Salvadorans who will lose their Temporary Protected Status.
“If we address this from a place of our Jesuit values, then it’s not about reacting in hatred—it’s about how we restore relationships,” Director of Campus Ministry Lulu Santana said. “For me, it comes down to what leads someone to post this up. It’s not a matter of judging or attacking that person. But to see how we as a community can pave waves to change in heart.”
Santana went on to emphasize the importance of filling out the campus climate survey sent out to students on Jan. 23. Through this survey, the university hopes to better understand the needs and experiences of students in order to further the goals outlined by the Blue Ribbon Commission for Diversity and Inclusion. In the email introducing the survey, Engh states his commitment “to receiving this important feedback and using the results of the Campus Climate Study to guide decision-making processes.”
Yet, students remain cautious about believing in promises that have been made before—from Unity 1 to Unity 4.
“I’m supposed to be in this environment so I can learn, so I can better myself,” Anaya said. “If this is a Jesuit university, then we are supposed to be here so we can make the world a better place. How are we supposed to do that if even on this tiny campus they can’t even manage to make this place an environment where we feel comfortable to learn?”
UPDATE: Early Jan. 25, Vice Provost Dennis Jacobs sent out an email reiterating the university’s commitment to Jesuit values and calling for civic discourse. “Civil discourse requires that individuals don’t merely demand to be heard, but that they also commit to listening and to engaging in dialogue with a genuine respect for one another,” Jacobs said.
Bella Rios and News Editor Erin Fox contributed reporting. Contact Perla Luna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.