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President Tilghman, a Canadian immigrant who is at the helm of Princeton University, recently expressed her support of the federal DREAM Act. Yet I am appalled that, unlike President Drew Faust of Harvard and Stanford President John Hennessy, Tilghman has failed to endorse the proposal.
This lukewarm approval reminds me of the famous lines from Letter from Birmingham Jail, when Martin Luther King Jr. criticized white moderates for their empty support: “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
We are certainly bewildered. Tilghman points to her roots as a Canadian immigrant to note her empathy for undocumented students. But in the same breath, she claims that she has “to be persuaded that by signing on, you increase the probability that some good that you’ve identified comes to the University.”
The most prominent “good” that came to Princeton was Dan-el Padilla, a DREAM-eligible student who graduated top of his class at Princeton in 2006, and, after much national outcry, he was finally granted a H1-B to work at Princeton while attending Oxford University. His story was so moving that it inspired interest in movie rights and a book deal.
Dr. Tilghman, a famous good has come and gone from Princeton. But this is not to say that there aren’t other undocumented students like Dan-el Padilla attending Princeton and living in the shadows of the Ivy, scared to come out because their University President is simply lukewarm about their hard-work and commitment to their studies.
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