I am an undergraduate student at Rutgers University, in New Jersey. Today I received the following email sent to my Rutgers address:

Members of the Rutgers Community:

We are writing to you in response to the Trump Administration’s announcement today regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented immigrants. The Administration today gave a six-month deadline to the Congress to legislatively enact a program for DACA-eligible immigrants, or the program will end.

Obviously, we need to pull together to urge quick action in the House and Senate.

Ending the program would be wrong, unwise, and inconsistent with American values. The young people who have applied for DACA protection in the hope of a productive and successful life in this country came forward and provided their personal information to the federal government in good faith. Rescinding this protection, after they have voluntarily identified themselves, is diametrically opposed to any sense of fairness, let alone compassion for their situation.

We recognize the stress that this decision is having on our undocumented students and their families, and to these students we want to be very clear in saying that nothing has changed for you in regard to your relationship with Rutgers. You remain a vital and valued part of our community of scholars, and we will continue to do all we can to support your successful completion of a Rutgers degree.

Those Rutgers students who are covered by the New Jersey DREAM Act, which has enabled many undocumented students who are longtime residents of our state to attend at in-state tuition rates, will continue to be eligible for this benefit. The university was successful in advocating for a NJ DREAM Act that did not rely on DACA, and it was the right decision.

Rutgers will continue to employ admissions policies that do not consider immigration status, and will continue to protect the privacy of all our students. This means the university will not provide student records to anyone unless required by a warrant, subpoena, or court order, and we will continue to offer support and legal guidance to any student who seeks it.

Unless Congress acts within six months, undocumented students who had been protected from deportation by DACA for a renewable two-year period will lose that protection and will, at that point, also no longer be eligible to receive a work permit. Even if the ultimate elimination of DACA does not lead to imminent deportation, it would be a very troubling decision that harms good people who have done nothing wrong, and we are determined to do all we can to advocate for action that preserves the protections offered by DACA.

The most effective solution to this problem is to enact federal legislation, such as the BRIDGE Act, a bill with broad bipartisan support in Congress, with an amendment that would extend DACA protections until comprehensive immigration reform is enacted. As you may recall, our students’ advocacy efforts earlier this year led to more than 20,000 electronic letters being sent to members of the House and Senate urging enactment of the BRIDGE Act. Now is the time to redouble our efforts. You will be receiving a separate e-mail outlining how members of our community who want to help undocumented students can engage in this effort.

In the meantime, let us again assure students that we are committed to supporting all of you as you make your way toward a Rutgers degree, and we wish all of you a rewarding academic year.


Robert Barchi, President Nancy Cantor, Chancellor, Rutgers University–Newark Deba Dutta, Chancellor, Rutgers University–New Brunswick Phoebe Haddon, Chancellor, Rutgers University–Camden Brian Strom, Chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences

Politically, I feel that it should be illegal for a public university to send out an email like that to its students. But is it actually illegal? (Needless to say, all answers should avoid any discussions of the politics not strictly necessary for a sound legal analysis).

  • 3
    It is extremely unlikely that this represents the official position of the university, since that would have to be approved by the Trustees or Governors. Any individual, including the entire collection of presidents and chancellors, can express their collective opinions and even state that they are the president or chancellor.
    – user6726
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 23:32

1 Answer 1


No, absent a state law to the contrary (and I am aware of no such law in this case) it is not illegal.

Universities, as institutions, are permitted to express opinions on political issues, especially political issues that are pertinent to their operations. Indeed, they often do so.

(Political candidates are arguably a different matter and certainly involve a more complex analysis to determine if the Johnson Amendment applies to a public university, but that isn't at issue in this case.)

Governmental entities may not take religious positions, but may take political ones.

Generally, even public colleges like Rutgers have this autonomy. Indeed, lobbying is frequently necessary for the survival of a public university - it has no choice but to lobby and a free hand regarding the issues upon which it does lobby.

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