Friday, September 9, 2011
Dreamers--You are the Students we have been Looking For
This morning Isabel Castillo, nationally known advocate for the Dream Act, was scheduled to speak at Eastern University. But on Tuesday she was arrested after a Dream Act rally in North Carolina and, therefore, could not appear. She had not been scheduled for civil disobedience that day because of a previous arrest in Senator Reid's office (she is brave but not cavalier) and because of her obligation to the students at Eastern. Nonetheless, the police in Charlottesville became overly zealous and grabbed persons on the sidelines.
Isabel has now been released. She will return to the University at a later date. The two persons who filled in for her, Jorge Salazar and Maria Fernanda Marroquin, did a splendid job.
But as I sat in the audience this morning, the whole irony of this event struck me. I have been a college professor and academic dean for 43 years of my life, and I have sat through countless faculty meetings where we strategized to build a more interestingly diverse student body and to recruit more engaged students (you know, an antidote to the back row who wear their ball caps backwards and dare you to say something interesting), all the while dealing with the fact that the number of college age students is declining.
Why then are we as a nation creating barriers to the matriculation of Dream Act students and increasing their financial burdens?!
These students know the value of a college education, literally, from the ground up. They are good citizens, which is the only path to citizenship. They have excelled in high school and are often fluently bi-lingual, a condition which we covet for all students forced to live in a global environment. They are not afraid of hard work, are politically savvy, and know that justice is far more than a seven letter word.
In short, these are the students we have been looking for!
Some colleges and universities are recognizing this and are admitting Dreamers, with financial aid, in small numbers. But, of course, they must do this in secret to ward off donor and constituent discontent. Won't it be splendid when academic institutions, commissioned to pass on the best values of the culture, can come out of the shadows and claim their own virtue!!!!