Georgetown University launched a new website last Thursday, April 7 to help undocumented students navigate the specific challenges presented by their citizenship status. The website serves to consolidate existing campus resources aimed at helping undocumented students at various stages in their Georgetown career, while also pointing students toward resources in the community.
The website highlights Georgetown’s commitment to providing an education and financial aid for undocumented students. The site makes it clear to prospective students that their immigration status will not impact their admissions process, nor will it discount them from financial aid. “Although undocumented students are not eligible for federal aid, Georgetown University does provide need-based scholarships to undocumented students who qualify,” the website reads.
These new resources were created by the Working Group to Support Undocumented Students, a group of faculty headed by Dennis Williams, Associate Dean of Student Affairs. The working group gathered university faculty from a variety of offices including some advising deans, the Office of Admissions, the Office of Financial Aid, the Center for Social Justice, the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, Campus Ministry, the Career Center, and the Kalmanovitz Initiative for the Working Poor.
“The website is the most tangible thing [the working group has] done,” said Williams. “We talked among ourselves about what are the things that we do in different offices that could be helpful for undocumented students and what are some of the problems that students might have that our offices could help solve,”
Although there were no students on the committee, Williams stressed that the impetus for these changes came from students. “ About five or six years ago … there were a group of students who created an organization called Hoyas for Immigrant Rights,” he said. “Between two and three years ago, some members of their organization began organizing unofficially under the name of UndocuHoyas.” The group began to organize events and connect with outside resources, ultimately meeting with administrators to voice their concerns.
The launch of the website coincided with National Institutions Coming Out Day for undocumented students. According to an April 7 email from Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olsen announcing the new website, the day is “meant to uplift the schools and organizations who are working with and for undocumented students, and those who want to begin that work.”
The website also includes links to statements of institutional support. These include an address by President DeGioia to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security about his support for the DREAM Act and undocumented students.
The new website continues Georgetown’s tradition of providing support for undocumented students. “As a Catholic and Jesuit institution, Georgetown University values the dignity of all members of the university community, regardless of immigration status,” reads the main page of the new website. “The university is committed to supporting undocumented students and the unique challenges they may face.”
“This is a good example of what I would consider constructive activism,” said Williams. “Students got together, determined some needs that would make their lives better and make the university I think stronger and they did what they needed to do to bring things to our attention.”