BY AMANDA REGALADO The bitter, blustering February wind outside matched students’ moods inside. New York University’s student government members—about 40 presidents and senators— sat disheveled in the colloquium room. Their eyes jetted anxiously to one another, sharing concern with each glance. Trump’s first month in office and his anti-immigrant policies weighed heavily on them. Whispers of worry filled the room.

The room fell silent as Alina Das, co-director of NYU’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, stepped up to the podium. She offered words of encouragement, reassuring students that the university was working diligently to protect its vulnerable communities.

Student government members listened attentively as she spoke of the Trump administration’s executive orders that could put undocumented students at risk of deportation. Das quoted NYU President Andrew Hamilton’s letter to the student body, reiterating that NYU will refuse to release sensitive information without a court warrant. “We are working closely with the law school and legal experts to be more proactive in the face of this new administration,” she said.

When her presentation finished, the whispers began again. The students were stunned Hamilton’s letter rejected the label “sanctuary campus.”

Through protests, resolutions, and petitions, many students and professors have demanded NYU declare itself a sanctuary campus as a political statement against the Trump administration.

Undaunted three months later, on a brisk spring evening, NYU students prepared to protest. They, joined by staff and faculty, planned to walk out of class at 1:30 p.m. on May Day and march to Washington Square Park.

In preparation, some students made paper signs with “I’m Walking Out On May Day” scribbled on the front in black Sharpie. They took photos of each other and posted them on Facebook, encouraging their friends to join too.

While being a sanctuary campus does not guarantee undocumented students safety from ICE or other immigration agents, millennials on campuses like Fordham, Columbia, and NYU continue to demand their school declare the status.

NYU, in the heart of Manhattan, already sits within a sanctuary city. What protection can a sanctuary campus provide students beyond what New York City already offers, especially with Mayor Bill de Blasio in full support of the sanctuary status?

Being a sanctuary city might protect undocumented students on the street, but it has nothing to do with the information the government could get from the university itself.  “Your records as an NYU student aren’t in City Hall. They’re in the NYU registrar,” said Professor Susie Linfield, a proponent who urged the journalism department to support the sanctuary movement.

While President Hamilton promised that student records will remain safe unless a warrant is presented, NYU declaring itself a sanctuary serves more as political statement for Linfield and others.

With 14 campuses worldwide, NYU prides itself as being a global network university. NYU is exactly the institution that should take the lead in declaring itself a sanctuary, Linfield said.

“In a time where there is so much repression and so much intimidation by the federal administration, the Trump administration, it’s very, very important for institutions to take public stands.”

She referenced the McCarthy era, a time during which accused Communists were placed on a black list, unable to get jobs and forced to name others. Linfield said one of the great crimes of the period was that people disagreed privately with the black list, but were too frightened to outwardly oppose it. “Private opposition isn’t really worth that much.  That’s just moralistic stance that makes you feel good about yourself.  For opposition to really have any influence it has to be powerful,” she said.

But not all undocumented students believe it is the university’s duty to publicly stand up for them. Some worry a political statement is dangerous.

The Dream Team, an NYU club comprised of undocumented students, stand divided on this issue, according 22-year-old Juan Calero, the student senator for Latino students. In a March meeting, the group discussed whether or not to support the student senate’s resolution to declare NYU a sanctuary.

Half voted against the resolution and half voted in favor. “It’s pretty much divided evenly,” Calero said.

The main fear is retaliation. “It is a known fact that ICE is capable of going out of their way to retaliate.”

Despite the Trump administration stating they are not targeting DACA students, students remain fearful. The first DACA student was deported last month, according to a USA Today report, which is something Calero thinks could happen to an NYU student too.

Still, Calero said he supports a public declaration. He analogized his point of view with Catholicism. “Faith without works is dead.”

One 20-year-old undocumented NYU student from New Jersey, who preferred not to give her name, said she is adamantly against a public statement. She said NYU declaring itself a sanctuary would be a direct affront to the administration.

“While I understand declaring NYU a sanctuary is trying to protect NYU students, I think it actually would be doing the opposite.  It would be basically putting a target on our back.”

Some see the sanctuary movement as more than a political statement. They see it as NYU’s promise to protect its students by whatever means necessary.

“One of the things that can be done is modeled on one of the approaches New York City has taken with its city ID program,” said Mohamad Bazzi, a journalism professor and supporter of the sanctuary movement. Bazzi explained a system in which data purges itself after a period of time. If the government requests information, the data will simply not exist, so the city will not be in violation of a subpoena order.

Bazzi thinks NYU should implement a similar system. He said he wants to see the NYU administration “publically commit to use NYU resources to defend, through legal channels, students and vulnerable groups on campus that would be targeted.” He wants a “concrete legal mechanism” to protect students.

Currently, the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic offers free, legal protection for undocumented students and faculty at NYU. It defends students in the courtroom if they are detained due to their immigration status. It also offers a hotline students can call if they need legal help. Co-director Das said undocumented students should reach out to the clinic if they run into trouble.

However, the clinic’s resources are limited, as volunteer lawyers and NYU law school students oversee it. Das said in order to expand the clinic’s offerings, she would need the university’s financial support.

There is speculation among faculty and students that the Board of Trustees is behind President Hamilton’s refusal to name NYU a sanctuary campus. One Board member, John Paulson, serves Trump’s economic advisor and contributed heavily to his campaign, according to the Washington Square News. This close Trump connection has caused the sanctuary movement to question the Board’s loyalties to the NYU community.

To convince President Hamilton to side with the sanctuary movement, Linfield half-jokingly said NYU would need a new set of Board members.

Bazzi, however, said more department and student group involvement would suffice, keeping both private and public pressure on Hamilton.

Thus far, 33 NYU departments and schools have signed in support of the sanctuary movement. More than 40 NYU-affiliated organizations have signed on as well. Students hope the May Day protest will further demonstrate NYU’s need to declare itself a sanctuary.

Sanctuary leaders sent an email advertising the protest. “This day is an opportunity to work toward our shared goal of making NYU a sanctuary campus, not only by drawing attention to our specific demands but also by educating ourselves and each other about issues facing immigrants, refugees, and workers on NYU’s campus, in New York City, and beyond.”