SC to host open forum for sanctuary campus referendum – UTA The Shorthorn

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Students will vote for more than just campus leaders during campus elections next week.

Five hours after voting begins 6 a.m. Monday, Student Congress will host an open forum for the sanctuary campus referendum, where history assistant professor Cristina Salinas will inform students about sanctuary campuses. Students will also have the opportunity to ask questions and make comments afterward, said Jennifer Fox, Student Governance assistant director.

The forum’s purpose is to educate students on the topic of sanctuary campuses and immigration before voting on the referendum, which was finalized and added to the ballot Tuesday, Fox said.

Students will also vote for student body president, vice president, senators, Mr. and Ms. UTA, ambassadors and Student Service Allocations Committee representatives, as usual.

A referendum is advisory, meaning President Vistasp Karbhari has the final say, despite the number of voters in support, Fox said.

Karbhari has already said UTA will not become a sanctuary campus and would continue to follow state and federal laws during the Feb. 15 Pizza with the President. Fox said Karbhari is aware of the referendum being on the ballot and will ultimately have the final say.

Under the Student Governance Constitution and Bylaws, a referendum will be added to the campus election ballot if 1,000 signatures are collected on a petition, she said. Mark Napieralski, Progressive Student Union president, said 1,048 students signed in support of UTA becoming a sanctuary campus over the past month.

Concurrently, SC created a resolution calling for UTA to claim itself as a sanctuary campus and refuse cooperation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a court order.

Introduced during the March 21 general body meeting, the resolution will be tabled until next semester, because not enough research has been conducted, SC Vice President Danish Dawood said in an email.

Napieralski said he and other union members will attend the referendum forum as guests rather than speakers, despite being the reason why the referendum was added to the ballot. He said this is because their stance is considered one-sided. 

For Salinas, she was asked only to speak about the topic from an unbiased standpoint, so students can make their own decisions on where they stand, Fox said.

Salinas said she will achieve this by presenting information from a generalized view about its history, motivations and realistic limitations and its effects.

As a history professor focusing on immigration and border issues, as well as a faculty member of the Center for Mexican-American Studies, Salinas said she is aware of how other college campuses around the country reacted to the immigration topic following the 2016 Presidential Election. She also keeps up to date about the status of sanctuary areas.

While some students may understand the topics personally, others may not and want to learn more. She hopes that students attend, considering it’s a place for free discussion.

“I think it depends on the individual,” she said.

To not violate the Election Code, Fox said the forum is located in Nedderman Hall because it would be considered campaigning if the location was near the place of voting in The Gallery in the University Center. Students would also feel more comfortable voicing their opinion on the topic being away from the voting place, she said.

Napieralski said his organization plans to let students understand what the organization is about and show how much they care about the topic at hand. He said he also has faith that students want UTA to become a sanctuary campus.

“Regardless of whether we win or lose, we’ll be moving forward,” Napieralski said.