Nearly 150 students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered in Cumberland University’s Baird Chapel Wednesday afternoon to hear the University president, a state legislator, a philanthropist, and an immigrant student from Mexico discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival policy that was recently rescinded by the Trump administration.
The forum was moderated by Dr. Mike Ripski, University chaplain. The panelists were Dr. Mike Spalding, CU Board of Trust member and founder of Equal Chance for Education, a nonprofit organization committed to providing college education opportunities to persons not eligible for loans or financial aid without regard to race, religion, or nation of birth; Mark Pody, State House Representative for the 46th District of Tennessee; Dr. Paul Stumb, President of Cumberland University; and Claudia Tepox, a student at Cumberland University and student body president.
The evening began with Dulce Castro, a CU student from Mexico, reading an essay about her experience as a DACA student. Her story, while not unique, is a shining example of a successful, yet fearful, Dreamer.
In strong statements of support for Dreamers, the panelists spoke about their own experiences, attitudes and beliefs about the rights of the 800,000 people across the nation, nearly 8,000 living in Tennessee, who as children were brought to the U.S., the only home they have known.
The event was organized by President Stumb, the University Chaplain, and other members of the student body and administration.
Dr. Paul Stumb, president of the university, felt the forum was an excellent learning opportunity for the campus community and was inspired by those who had the courage to lend their voice to the conversation.
“The forum was a refreshing dialogue that demonstrated how many of our students and faculty, community leaders, and government officials care about this important issue and want to make a change,” said Dr. Stumb. “The 35 DACA students who are attending CU are truly model students that are driven to achieve the American Dream. Why would we not want to help them do that, is my question?”
DACA was created in 2012 under former President Barack Obama to offer protections to the children of immigrants who entered the United States illegally. DACA protects participants, also known as Dreamers, from being deported and allows them to receive a work permit as long as they meet certain requirements.
Following President Trump’s rescission of the program, the University announced it was opposed to that decision and that furthering the program would improve the lives of thousands of youth across the country and give them a chance at a life they may not have had otherwise.
Cumberland University has one of the longest, richest histories of any higher education institution in the state. Founded in 1842, the University flourishes today with exceptional faculty and fully-accredited academic programs steeped in the liberal arts, including three distinct schools: the Rudy School of Nursing and Health Professions; the School of Humanities, Education, and the Arts; and the Labry School of Science, Technology, and Business. Athletics also are a strength of Cumberland University, as its teams in 28 sports regularly compete for conference and national championships. Coach Woody Hunt’s baseball teams has claimed the NAIA national championship title three times since 2004.