Pace University and Customs & Border Patrol update: SGA forum and Provost email


Phyllis Mooney

Alexandra Puga

On Oct. 21 in the Bianco Room, Student Government Associated hosted an open forum that featured the Chief Diversity Officer Tiffany Hamilton, Executive Director of Career Services Phyllis Mooney, and Dean for Students Marijo Russell-O’Grady. President Krislov was not in attendance. Pace Political Science Society and SGA clarified that the forum would be a safe space for those who were in attendance.

To make it clear, Customs and Border Patrol will not be coming to campus for the webinar, but there are no promises that they may not be seen here on campus in the future. Career Services doesn’t endorse any employers.

Phyllis Mooney
Phyllis Mooney | Pace University

Professor Meghana V. Nayak, Ph.D., provided a handout to clarify the difference and description of ICE, CBP, and DHS. Nayak also pointed out, “How would you feel if you were a DACA student and receiving this email?” Professor Nayak also made several points:

“1) [There is already a] climate of palpable fear and terror in immigrant communities and communities who are racially profiled (primarily Latinx but also South Asian, Arab, and African)

2) Border Patrol and ICE directly violate international and U.S. law and fail to deter migration but various U.S. administrations continue to create policy to expand powers

3) There is a difference between controversial/political events and organizations and those that cause harm to communities to which our students/staff/faculty belong

4) Border Patrol and ICE violate Pace’s commitment to supporting immigrant students

5) Border Patrol and ICE’s institutional cultures are extremely difficult to change from within; while some governmental agencies (like the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services Asylum Office) need well-educated Pace students who are critical thinkers, other organizations (like Border Patrol and ICE) need to be completely restructured.

6) Listen when impacted communities, allies, and people with expertise express alarm about events and organizations; plan for alternative events that allow free speech and productive debate without creating harm and fear for any members of our Pace community.”

She concluded her statement by saying, “It is distressing not a controversy for our most vulnerable students.”

When asked if CBP agents will be back, Dean for Students Marijo Russell-O’Grady said, “We are not inviting the agents of ICE here to find our students…however, those agencies may still continue to post those job offerings. If agents came, we’d have to work with them.”

Hamilton said there is no outward invitation, but “we have to comply.” Hamilton is still relatively new to the University and started her job in August.

Several students claimed that the Career Services Instagram account had blocked them following posts concerning the webinar. Mooney addressed that no students had been blocked intentionally and if it had happened it had been done in error. Mooney and Hamilton took note and said they will look into it as more incidents have come to their attention. All parties noted that whoever blocked these students must be held accountable. However, Mooney said they “couldn’t find history of blocking” on their end.

University junior Taliah Stanley raised several concerns to the University personnel. “What person thought this was a good idea? Who is allowing the continuation of this event? Who would like to be accountable and why is this continuing?” asked Stanley.

“We use Handshake,” Mooney emphasized. “This [event] is not hosted by Pace Career Services; we are just forwarding.” Mooney noted that the only two qualifications that are needed to forward job opportunities to operations are: “1. Legitimate, 2. Looking for students and recent grads for professional positions.”

“Why not disassociate with CBP?” Stanley continued. There was no answer to her question. “What is going to come out of this forum?”

Tiffany Hamilton | Pace University
Tiffany Hamilton | Pace University

Hamilton replied, “To get information, be more thoughtful of our next steps. We hear you. Today empowers me because your safety and security is important to me.”

“I am very disappointed that our questions were not met with concrete answers,” shared University senior Sydney Korman. “The administrators that were present aimed to place blame on everyone except for themselves. They said that the event was okay because a few students would be interested in that career path, and that the event was from handshake and not Pace-specific. Instead, they should have taken responsibility for this happening in the first place.” Korman continued, “If they had done this, I believe students would be more willing to work with them, instead we are still left feeling angry and not listened too.”

Korman brought up several points, such as “Advertising equals endorsing. Where is your line with free speech? Will you endorse an anti-LGBTQ company? Take it down from Handshake. President Krislov must rescind his DACA quote from the 2017 convocation and Op-Ed.” Each question that Korman raised was ignored and the forum moved onto the next person.

“So this is not going to be canceled. That is a no,” said Professor Pamela Fuentes. “So, I just want to say that what has happened also brings consequences. And I think what students want now is action. Someone brought up authoritarianism before, but actually this is how democracy works…I am very, very sorry you are not taking that down because it is not something that is happening here, but I recently signed a pledge against University’s having ties with ICE and border patrol.” Fuentes continued, “As a professor and faculty member, I completely disagree with you not taking that down.”

Hamilton made the closing remarks. “I hear the narrative around communication, conversation, consistency in action, so I’ve taken notes… I have noted the presence of the President, and since I do work in his office, I will relay that. We greatly appreciate hearing the narrative from all the students that have been represented here today. One thing that echoes in my mind is we all have a VIP reservation in one room, and that room is room for improvement. Thank you to SGA and the faculty that supports the students.”

On Oct. 23, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Vanya Quiñones sent out an email thanking students, faculty, and staff who participated in the conversation on Monday. Quiñones addressed the mistake that was made by saying the webinar would be held on campus and apologized. “Pace University is not making political statements in support of a particular administration or company,” Quiñones said. “We are simply giving students a chance to learn more about career paths that might interest them. Career Services is actively reviewing their communication strategy to make sure that everyone feels welcome and safe and is eager to collaborate with our students.”