Response to Petitions

This message was emailed to students, faculty and staff on December 1, 2016.

Dear Wake Forest Community,

After the presidential election I emailed you with a personal reflection on one of the most divisive periods in recent American history. I wrote that day, and continue to believe, that our Wake Forest community profoundly values intellectual discourse, diverse viewpoints, and, most importantly, one another. I concluded those reflections by recognizing that the one choice we have every day is how we treat one another.

Those same beliefs underscore my desire to communicate with you now. I recently received petitions signed by members of the Wake Forest community urging me to declare Wake Forest as a sanctuary for students, staff and their family members who believe that they may face potential deportation. I have also been given a petition urging me to follow federal immigration law and cooperate with federal law enforcement. I do not believe adopting the position of either petition will strengthen our community. While I will not sign either statement, I will do everything within my power as the president of Wake Forest University to support every member our community in their pursuit of an education.

I am prepared to use the resources at my disposal to uphold the values to which I have committed myself as the leader of Wake Forest. To that end, I joined hundreds of other university leaders in signing the petition asking the president-elect to uphold, continue and expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy implemented in 2012. Wake Forest is also a member of the “Every Campus a Refuge” program, providing housing and other forms of support for newly-arrived political refugees from around the globe. Our campus is richer for our diverse population and we will continue to provide financial aid, support services, and connection to legal resources for undocumented students.

I empathize deeply with the fear created by recent political rhetoric and I recognize that within our community there are many who feel unsafe, unvalued, or unwelcome because of the current divisive climate. I pledge to you my full support, and that of the wonderfully talented staff that are here to help you get the most from your Wake Forest experience. Regardless of background or beliefs, each of us came to Wake Forest because it offered the opportunity to better ourselves and serve the people and causes we hold most dear. We are challenged by, and therefore bettered by, our differences. We must earn the right to be a community where ideas and values are openly challenged and discussed in moments like this one. It is when the forces around us threaten to pull us apart that we must redouble our commitment to find one another in conversation and community.

We will continue to work with individuals, student groups and advocacy groups representing the full political and social spectrum. You can expect additional guidance from Wake Forest administrators on how we will help our community navigate the uncertainty surrounding future immigration law. I am confident that we can uphold Wake Forest’s most time-honored values through civil discourse and a true willingness to learn from one another. As a community, I believe we are up to that challenge.

Nathan O. Hatch
President