On January 27, 2017, United States President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order temporarily withholding entry to the U.S. to individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries. In addition, aspects of the current visa and refugee program were suspended. The order has affected many people and caused confusion worldwide. Since it was established, news reports show that the order is also having an impact on higher education institutions around the world. Therefore, we decided to conduct a brief scan of reports that share information on how the ban will effect higher education, and how school leaders in the U.S. and around the world are responding.
Universities and scholars are grappling with what the restrictions of the travel ban means for students and scholarship. One primary concern is for international students and faculty who are studying and working in U.S. institutions, but who happened to be outside of the country when the order was signed and are now unable to return. Additional concerns have been raised about the future of longstanding partnerships between universities in the US and in affected countries, such as Iran. Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education, was quoted in the Times Higher Education: “What we have is, frankly, a matter of significant concern and a great deal of confusion and very little clarity.”
According to Business Insider, tens of thousands of students across the country could be affected. Dallas News detailed how the ban will impact students in colleges and universities in Texas. Southern Methodist University has 49 students from the seven affected countries; The University of North Texas has 85 students; the Dallas County Community College District has 47; UT-Dallas has 127; Texas Tech University has 149; UT-Austin has 110; and the University of Houston has 280. Students and staff are being warned not to travel and to avoid the Texas-Mexico border checkpoints.
A coalition of 598 college and university presidents signed a letter to President Trump urging that the travel ban be rescinded. As reported by The Hill, this letter was sent to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly through the American Council on Education (ACE). As reported in The Boston Globe and in Time Magazine, these higher education leaders said that the order “specifically prevents talented, law-abiding students and scholars from the affected regions from reaching our campuses. American higher education has benefitted tremendously from this country’s long history of embracing immigrants from around the world.”
Additional reports share individual responses from presidents of Princeton, Rutgers, Harvard, MIT and Carnegie Mellon. The Association of American Universities and the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement also issued statements. Also, as reported in The Independent UK, more than 4,500 scholars from Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East have signed a petition calling for a boycott of international conferences held in the U.S.
Since the implementation of the Executive Order, there has been some speculation that the travel ban could benefit countries wiling to take the displaced students and faculty—such as Canada, Australia, and Ireland. For example, Memorial University of Newfoundland, in Canada, has offered to waive the application fees of students applying from the seven countries named in the Executive Order—hoping to attract new talent to the school. In an article just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, two physicians at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center explore the consequences of the travel ban and point out that international medical graduates currently fill gaps in the American healthcare system, particularly in rural areas.
Meanwhile, protests and demonstrations continue. Yesterday, hundreds of New York City high school students walked out of school in protest of the ban. As reported in Chalkbeat, students filled Manhattan’s Foley Square, chanting “No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!” College students have also been protesting in many states, including Vermont, Maine, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, and even in the UK.