Protest over termination of DACA scholarship draws more than 200 students

Students march to protest Pitzer’s withholding of scholarship money for an undocumented student. (Elinor Aspegren • The Student Life)

More than 200 students marched to protest Pitzer College’s decision to withhold scholarship money from an undocumented student Tuesday.

Damaris Esquivel PZ ’19, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiary, had her scholarship revoked due to “a course credit deficit,” which jeopardises her ability to graduate this year, according to a survey from the protest organizers.

“Pitzer has proven to not be a sanctuary campus, nor safe to its undocumented and DACAmented students,” the statement said.

In 2017, Pitzer President Melvin Oliver said Pitzer would be a sanctuary campus and “not voluntarily comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or other public authorities, in any investigation of the immigration status of any member of our community.”

The protesters marched from The Hive to the admissions office and then to the dean of students office. Many held signs that read “What Core Values?” and “Melvin, Support Your Students,” and chanted “Pitzer, Support Your DACA Students” and “Undocumented and Unafraid, Dama’s Here to Stay.”

Student holds sign at protest criticizing Pitzer’s decision to withhold scholarship. (Elinor Aspegren • The Student Life)

They grew in number as supporters joined them — although some people stood on the sidelines, either clapping or filming the protest.

After the protest ended, the organizers plastered the signs from the protest on Oliver’s house and front walkway.

Selena Spier PZ ’19, who held a sign that said “Do Not Profit Off Your Alleged Support of a DACA Student and then Fail To Support Them,” said via email that she marched to support Esquivel and promote institutional social justice and progressivism.

“Social justice is something that young people care about, and consumer society has caught on. Corporate America has turned activism into something that can be exploited for profit,” she said. “We cannot allow Pitzer to become part of that pattern. Specifically, we need to ensure that Pitzer administration actually upholds the progressivism that it uses as a marketing strategy.”

Pitzer Executive Director for Advancement Jim Marchant told TSL that advancement could not comment on the protest itself, but said “we support the student’s right to protest.”

But Nimiye Ogoun PZ ’19 wrote in a message to TSL that Esquivel “deserves [to have] her scholarship back.”

“The protest was powerful and spoke volumes. I think that it really showed administration the love and support Damaris has across the 5Cs,” she wrote. “I think it was a beautiful protest that was genuine and meaningful to so many.”

Pitzer’s website states that the Undocumented Student Scholarship, which Esquivel had received, is designed for students “who are ineligible for federal financial aid.

“The scholarship is given annually to a student who embodies the core values and mission of Pitzer College,” the website states. 

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