Photo by Jessie Spangler
On Sept. 5, Drake President Marty Martin sent an email to campus to reaffirm the university’s commitment to DACA recipients. This was in light of President Trump’s decision to rescind the program that allows people to work and learn in the U.S. who were brought to this country illegally at a young age. Martin’s statements, paired with Drake’s decision to become a sanctuary campus last year, has prompted some donors to say they won’t be giving to the school in the future.
“There have been some that have expressed reservation or objection to my communications about DACA and other issues,” Martin said. “Some individuals have said that because of their objection, they’re not going to support the institution anymore. That has been very, very few people that have gone that far.”
John Smith, vice president of university advancement, said there isn’t an exact number to reflect this potential decrease in funding.
“… These are all conversations with individuals,” Smith said. “They are fluid and they are long-term. If there’s a dollar amount that’s been floated out here, I would say that it wouldn’t be a concrete number by any means.”
Smith said some donors are concerned Drake will be violating the law by protecting DACA recipients on campus. Others, Smith said, don’t believe it’s Drake’s place to provide services to undocumented students.
Martin said Drake is not trying take a political stance but is trying to handle a situation that hits close to home.
“The issue of DACA for this campus is not some remote, distant exercise,” Martin said. “It’s very personal, because we know people whose life are going to be impacted by this policy change and who are experiencing anxiety and stress and even fear because of the actions that have been taken. … Trying to help people understand and appreciate that puts a little different perspective to it.”
Martin and Smith said conversations have taken place with donors expressing their concerns or financial decisions to the administration.
“Many people who have expressed objection, I’ve invited them to have a conversation, and when they’ve accepted the invitation, in every instance, we’ve ended up in a good place,” Martin said. “We might not have agreed exactly of the right outcome or the course of action going forward. But we certainly appreciate we’re both coming to the struggle in good faith and trying to do our best.”
Smith said it’s necessary to understand donors’ opinions.
“We try to listen to them, to understand how and why they’re feeling the way they do, and to recognize that at the point of any decision they choose to make about their engagement, we want them to know that those of us connected to the institution are looking at them in the long run,” Smith said.
Smith said donors have expressed their opinions and views of the university in a number of ways. These have included views on how the basketball team is doing and about certain speakers on campus.
“There will be, frequently, opinions shared and some alumni will choose to leverage their levers more aggressively than others,” Smith said. “There are the likes of which people say, ‘How can you have someone so liberal on campus?’ And those to the likes of which people say, ‘How can you have people that conservative on campus?’”
Martin and Smith upheld Drake’s decision to support DACA recipients and said financial decisions by donors would not change the university’s dedication to its values and responsibilities.
“In any circumstances like this, institutions have to rely first and foremost on the characteristic of who we are,” Smith said. “President Marty has fully embraced the university’s statement of principles and that those will serve as his and our institution’s guiding force going forward. With that, we’ll remain committed in the principles of supporting and advancing all individuals who are interested in and passionate about a Drake education.”
Martin said he feels the need to speak to Drake’s values whenever they are challenged.
“The point is that this institution has a set of articulated values, and one of my primary responsibilities as president is to speak to those values when they’re challenged in a way that impacts our campus and our community,” Martin said.
“Those who object to the DACA students, it’s not solely an objection to Drake University but it’s their belief that it’s not Drake’s place or higher education’s place or the nation’s place to provide support and services to students they believe are here unlawfully,” Smith said. “There is a perception that the university’s stance and the president’s statements are incongruent with our responsibilities to follow the law.”