Denver Provides Platform to Talk About Current Issues Impacting Universities’ Communities

Tom George Chancellor, University of Missouri–St. Louis; President, CUMU

The upcoming Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities annual conference is coming about at an opportune time—at least for me—to learn more about and discuss at length a host of complicated issues affecting our nation and communities.

The ongoing debate about so-called “Dreamers,” individuals who were transported by their parents into the United States as children, is one such issue.

The Trump administration announced earlier this month its intention to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, pushing the fates of “Dreamers” in the hands of Congress. The national response—pro and con—was loud.

The four campuses of the University of Missouri System issued a joint statement in support of extending the program for college students. It read in part:

DACA students are hardworking, bright individuals who have much to contribute to our society in many disciplines, including the sciences, humanities, arts and social sciences. Many have persevered to attend college to better themselves and contribute to American society. For these reasons, we request a fair and compassionate solution to support the young people who have been placed in desperate situations through no fault of their own.”

Many of your institutions have also disseminated communications in support of students seeking better and different lives. I applaud you.

Missouri law requires us to charge DACA students the same tuition that applies to international students. As educators, access is in our DNA. We want to make our programs available to as many talented, motivated students as possible and have used private scholarships to bridge the gap for these students here.

The larger issue is how to articulate the case for access and opportunity for these and others as good public policy to individuals who see it differently – particularly when those who might disagree directly affect your institutional budget.

I look forward to speaking with you and attending some of the sessions dedicated to diversity and inclusion to learn more about strategies to move forward.

Our institutions are anchors for progress in our respective communities—not just for DACA students but also for generating the educated work force, health care delivery, neighborhood renewal and integration, economic development and much more.

CUMU members have resources and clout. Denver is a great place to discuss how to better focus these resources and clout together to improve our community and our nation.

See you soon,

Tom George