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Women and Gender Center

University of Colorado Denver | Women & Gender Ceter

Solidarity across identities

My liberation is bound up with yours and yours with mine

Solidarity statement: Standing with undocumented students

September 5, 2017

Dear friends of the Women & Gender Center at CU Denver, 

Today, the Trump administration announced that it plans to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. This program was implemented under the Obama administration to protect undocumented individuals who came to the U.S. as children. DACA has enabled hundreds of thousands of children and adults to earn a high school diploma, attend college, attain employment, and work toward achieving their professional, educational, and personal dreams. 

It’s not yet fully clear what impact Trump’s decision will have nationwide or within the Auraria community. You should know, though, that the University of Colorado yesterday issued a statement of support for DACA recipients. The statement​ affirms CU’s commitment to current and future undocumented students. The statement reads: 


Dear University of Colorado Students, Faculty, and Staff:

For years, the University of Colorado has welcomed DACA recipients to our campuses. DACA students enrich our community, inspire us with their commitment to their education and their futures, and add to the diversity of perspectives that makes colleges and universities in the United States unique. As the leaders of the University of Colorado, we cherish our DACA students and add our voices urging Congress to quickly find a pathway that will allow current and future undocumented students, all of whom have spent years being educated in the United States, to complete their studies without fear for their futures. 

We don’t know what changes will occur in the DACA program in the near future, and we will continue to communicate with you as we learn more. But we do know that DACA recipients will remain welcome on University of Colorado campuses, and we will advocate on your behalf. Colorado grants many undocumented students the ability to receive in-state tuition, and we will continue to admit students without regard to their immigration status. We will communicate that we expect undocumented students and workers to be treated with respect and dignity in our classrooms and our campus community. We will not release any student’s information or employee’s information to federal officials or anyone else, as this information is protected by state and federal laws, unless we receive a lawful subpoena or warrant that requires us to do so. We have created programs to provide financial assistance to undocumented students, which we will try to grow, and we plan to employ DACA recipients on our campuses for as long as we are able.

We will engage Colorado’s senators and representatives and offer our support. We will work with national educational organizations that are communicating their concerns for your futures to Congress and the White House. It’s important for you to know where we stand – and our message to the DACA recipients in our community is simple – we stand with you.

Bruce Benson
President, University of Colorado

Philip DiStefano
Chancellor, University of Colorado Boulder

Don Elliman
Chancellor, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Dorothy Horrell
Chancellor, University of Colorado Denver

Venkat Reddy
Chancellor, University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Many offices and centers on the Auraria campus, including the Undocumented Student Services Office, will be providing direct support and advocacy for community members directly affected by this change. Additionally, this fact sheet developed by a Denver-based law firm specializing in immigration law offers guidance on how the end of DACA might impact you.

The Women & Gender Center is among the many, many campus offices that will offer support and advocacy in whatever ways we can. We stand with undocumented students. We cherish you. We value you. We want you here. 

In solidarity, compassion, and strength,

Jacob McWilliams

Women & Gender Center Coordinator,

University of Colorado Denver 

Statement of response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia

August 16, 2017​

It is the easiest thing in the world to condemn Nazism and hate-fueled violence. I do so, unequivocally, both in my capacity as the head of the Women and Gender Center at CU Denver and as a compassionate human being whose heart is broken by the vitriol and violence that came to the fore in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend. 

It is far more difficult to speak about the complicated political climate that encircles Charlottesville and extends across the United States. I represent a public university whose policies protect against discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, pregnancy, creed, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, gender identity, gender expression, political philosophy or political affiliation. What happens when these identity categories come into conflict, as they have at times in recent political discourse? How do those of us who work at public institutions balance our commitments to supporting students of all political affiliations and identities with our commitments to support students from historically marginalized communities—including, but not limited to, students of color, undocumented immigrants, LGBTQ students, and women?

If you’ve wondered why some public officials have not made public statements about a given issue or news item, it’s likely because the path forward on these issues sometimes feels unclear. The First Amendment protects speech, even unpopular speech—but it doesn’t mean people have an automatic right to a platform from which to speak. Public universities are designed as places where people are exposed to a range of ideas and ideals, and university officials often struggle with how to manage this when unpopular speech starts to edge into bigoted or hateful ideas.  Professors want their classrooms to be places where students feel comfortable engaging in an honest exchange of ideas, and they’re sometimes unsure of how to manage this when one student says something that makes another student uncomfortable. How can they guide the conversation to a place where people feel safe and supported? There’s no guidebook on this.

I wish the political discourse in our country was in a different place, so that I didn’t have to worry about how to effectively stand in solidarity with the students whose rights are at risk without alienating students whose political affiliations align with the majority governing party. But I guess if standing up for what’s right was always easy, then it might not feel as rewarding.  

So here’s what I can tell you: My office focuses on issues related to gender, gender diversity, and gender equity. These issues cannot and should not be separated from the rights and concerns of people of color, immigrants, people living with disabilities, queer people, or anybody else who does not enjoy equal access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the United States. My ​liberation is bound up with yours, and yours with mine. Therefore, I stand in solidarity with all those whose rights and safety—emotional, physical, and legal—are at risk. This means more than simply grasping the low hanging fruit. (After all, it’s the easiest thing in the world to condemn Nazism.) It also means centering the concerns of those people and communities who are most vulnerable, and committing to using the resources I have available to support them in whatever ways they need. 

As we begin the Fall 2017 semester, I want you to know that the Women & Gender Center is committed to advancing an equitable, compassionate, and empathetic campus climate in which all students feel able to learn, set educational and professional goals, and achieve those goals successfully. If there’s any way I, or anybody at the Women & Gender Center, can help you feel supported as you begin or continue your journey at the University of Colorado Denver, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Please also consider attending a brown bag event tomorrow, Thursday, August 17, to discuss the events in Charlottesville. This event is sponsored by CU Denver's Center for Identity and Inclusion. It will be located in Student Commons Building room 1500, from 12:00pm-1:30. This will be an open discussion with no formal agenda.


In kindness, compassion, and justice,

Jacob McWilliams

Women & Gender Center Coordinator

University of Colorado Denver