Khurana Says He Is ‘Committed to Serving’ Undocumented Students

Following a divisive presidential election, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana said he will prioritize protecting Harvard’s undocumented undergraduates as President-elect Donald Trump transitions into office, though he did not offer specific plans.

In an interview last Tuesday, Khurana said Loc Truong, the Office of Student Life’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion Programs, is now a “point person” for undocumented students’ concerns. Khurana added that he, Truong, and Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair have been meeting individually with students since “almost immediately after the election.”

Dean Khurana
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.

Many people at Harvard and around the United States have criticized Trump for rhetoric targeting immigrants and Muslims. During his campaign, Trump suggested banning Muslims from entering the country, proposed deporting millions of undocumented Mexican immigrants, and repeatedly pledged to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Khurana said he empathizes with groups that Trump specifically targeted throughout his campaign.

“I think there’s been a significant amount of focus on supporting [undocumented] students at this time of uncertainty,” Khurana said.

In the weeks since the election, Harvard faculty and students have rallied in support of undocumented students. A petition calling on Harvard administrators to support undocumented population has garnered more than 4,000 signatures, and has received endorsements from at least three academic departments.

The petition demands the College create an office specifically meant to cater to undocumented student needs, and for the OSL to immediately hire a replacement for Emelyn A. dela Pena, the College’s former associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Khurana did not specify whether or not the College will create a new office for undocumented students, but said the College recently hired a consultant to assist in the search process for dela Pena’s replacement.

“Our mission, whatever their immigration status, where they were born, they are Harvard,” Khurana said.

Students and professors across the University have largely criticized Trump’s candidacy and transition into the presidency. An overwhelming majority of undergraduates—about 87 percent—supported Hillary Clinton ahead of the election, and many people reacted to Trump’s victory with shock and anger.

Speaking about the election more generally, Khurana denounced a recent nationwide surge of hate speech and hate crimes, some of which have taken place within Harvard’s gates.

“Hate has no place at Harvard,” he said. “I think that we live in a time of uncertainty and fear, and Harvard has a unique opportunity to do what it always has done, which is stand tall and stand up for some really foundational values that I think are the bedrock of our country.”

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