President's Message Regarding Trump's Recent Executive Order, 1/30/17.

 

President’s Message Regarding Trump’s Recent Executive Order, 1/30/17

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

As you are aware, on Friday, January 27, President Trump signed an executive order indefinitely barring Syrian refugees from entering this country, and barring all other refugees for 120 days. The order also blocked all citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, for 90 days. There have been conflicting messages from the White House about how the ban impacts citizens from these countries who are already in the United States on green cards or various forms of visas. The most recent information states that green card holders are exempt from the ban, but it goes on to imply that that exemption may not be automatic.  Because the executive order and other rhetoric suggests that Christians from these countries may be exempt from the ban, many legal experts and legislators believe the ban is essentially a religious one, impacting the Muslim community specifically.

I state here in the strongest words possible that Drew University does not and will not ever discriminate against someone because of her or his religion, race, country of national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation. In fact, the categorical reverse is true—this community is enriched and made whole by its diversity. This is a community of love, safety, and support. As its leader, I will do everything within my abilities to ensure that this remains true, even in the face of challenges like the ones presented in the executive order.

As a community of learners, Drew University is very attentive to the deep concerns and fears of its members and is firmly committed to the safety and protection of all of our community members, including non-U.S. citizens who hold green cards or appropriate visas for their current status as students, faculty, and staff. Our intent is to ensure that students’ opportunity to learn, and faculty and staff members’ pursuit of their work and scholarship in the United States and affected countries remains uninterrupted.

The University has existing policies designed to protect our students and faculty. For example, we have policies that protect the privacy of student, faculty, and staff records, and our public safety officers have no role in enforcing immigration law. Unfortunately, the legal landscape around the executive order is changing by the hour. What this means is that at present, the University is unable to offer any specific guaranteed protections and or advice related to the ban, or to the implications of sanctuary status. Any particular claims about our ability to support students could be immediately rendered irrelevant, falsely comforting, or at worst, directly detrimental to individual students, faculty, or staff. It is simply too soon to fully understand how best to protect our students. For now, we must listen, express our support, and refer students for legal advice when they require it.

My colleagues and I are working as rapidly as possible to understand what further support we may be able to afford those who are vulnerable to this ban, and other students, including DACA students, who may be impacted by this ban or other immigration policies.

I expect to provide a more specific update later this week when we have evaluated the situation internally and externally. Our explorations include, but are not limited to, understanding the impact of the ban on current visa processes, routes to legal advice for affected community members, inventorying of planned University travel as it may relate to the ban or be inadvertently impacted by the ban, a University-wide teach-in on the concept of sanctuary campuses, and other ways to enhance the safety of our community members.

I am working to personally educate myself on this topic. I recently attended a seminar on sanctuary campuses, and I am currently in Washington, D.C. at a conference on advocacy at the federal level for independent higher education, where we will be speaking directly to both houses of Congress about this issue. My colleagues and I are actively learning from each other about approaches to protecting our community members.

In interim, I offer the following suggestions, similar to those being made by my colleagues across the country:

  • If you are a passport holder from any of the seven affected countries, consider suspending any discretionary travel outside of the United States, as you may encounter problems returning to the United States.
  • If you are a U.S. passport holder with planned travel to any of the affected countries, consider suspending any discretionary travel to those counties, as their response to U.S. citizens may also be unpredictable.
  • If you need someone to talk to or offer support please know that you can turn to a variety of University offices including the Office of International Student and Scholar Services, the Center for Global Education, Counseling Services, Campus Life and Student Affairs, the Dean’s office in the College, the Caspersen School, and the Theological School, and the President’s Office (for referral to support).

Further, to all community members, if you are planning University-sponsored travel, regardless of location, please keep yourself informed of any advisories or requirements that may be issued from the University or the Center for Global Education as we learn more about the situation.

Again, I affirm Drew University’s commitment to all diversity, and in this case, particularly to religious diversity. That commitment remains unwavering. All are welcome in this place.

We will send updates as we learn more.

Best regards,
MaryAnn