Higher Education Reform Must Include Ending “Sanctuary” Campuses

The shutdowns caused by COVID-19 have negatively impacted not only many businesses and their employees, but also our colleges and universities. They are now facing billions of dollars in unanticipated shutdown costs and will undoubtedly require state and federal relief to cope with the challenge. The National Association of Scholars (NAS) “believes that some such bailout will be necessary [but]also believes that legislators and regulators should tie bailout funds to reforms that address long-standing problems in American higher education.”

This, as the NAS explains in its recent policy recommendations, must include ending so-called “sanctuary” campuses and other pro-illegal-alien, anti-immigration-enforcement policies by colleges and universities. Admittedly, the NAS report reflects the views of a dissenting minority within an academia that is dominated by the left and increasingly radical.

Founded in 1987, the organization cherishes the Western intellectual tradition and promotes a patriotic and “virtuous citizenship” while defending academic freedom and a classical liberal education. It thus opposes the post-modernist assault on objective truth, cultural Marxism, and the tyrannical aspects of leftist political correctness – including campus speech codes – as well as the constant bashing by left-wing professors of almost everything Western and American (including our borders, sovereignty, and – indeed – even the very legitimacy of our nationhood). Even though most academics and college administrators will probably reject NAS’s recommendations outright, they nevertheless deserve a fair consideration.

The recommendations cover a wide range of (related) subjects. NAS thus proposes making any coronavirus relief funds conditional upon, inter alia, universities committing themselves to “promoting First Amendment rights and intellectual diversity” (which includes allowing invited speakers to actually speak on campus) and respecting due process rights in all disciplinary and investigatory proceedings.

It also calls for limiting foreign dependence, particularly on hostile countries such as communist China, including by banning bailout funds for any universities with international branch campuses (that’s because “universities’ desire to preserve this profit source consequently gives foreign governments a means to exert influence on them.”). As importantly, NAS’s recommendations would require that institutions of higher learning put American students first.

Any college wanting to take advantage of COVID-19-related relief funds, would first have to “prohibit ‘sanctuary campus’ policies and cooperate with federal immigration laws and enforcement agencies” and also prohibit the “hiring or admitting [of]illegal aliens, including beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).”

This is significant because approximately 450,000 illegal aliens are currently enrolled in American institutions of higher learning, and the vast majority (82 percent) are enrolled at taxpayer-funded schools. That’s almost half a million university slots that could have potentially gone to deserving American students! Moreover, many states grant in-state tuition rates to illegal alien students (in some cases this is limited to DACA recipients or individual universities); some also provide financial aid to illegal aliens.

Pro-illegal-alien “sanctuary campus” policies are, like sanctuary policies in general, driven in large part by a radical ideology that sees any immigration enforcement as oppressive, racist, and xenophobic. And like “sanctuary” jurisdictions in general, “sanctuary campuses” undermine and flout the rule of law. Ensuring that such colleges do not receive American taxpayer funding, until they straighten out their act, is a common-sense proposal – and likely a more effective way to compel such behavior modification than mere exhortations and criticism.

NAS wants to prioritize American students in another way as well. As the report aptly points out, “American higher education should focus on providing educational opportunities to American citizens. When too large a proportion of the student body consists of foreigners, departments and colleges cater to foreign interests rather than serve American ones.”

To remedy this, the organization proposes that “colleges and universities may only receive bailout funds if they receive no more than 20% of their tuition revenues from international students; if they receive no more than 5% of their tuition revenues from students from any one foreign country; if no more than 5% of their undergraduate students are foreigners; and if 35% of graduate students in each department are American citizens.”

While the NAS policy recommendations will likely generate a great deal of sneering and outrage among leftists – both within academia and outside of it – they will probably make a great deal of sense to most Americans. There is no reason why the American taxpayer should be compelled to fund institutions which undermine our laws and favor foreign students – including from hostile countries – at the expense of U.S. students.

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