WU speaks out against immigration ban to secure global community

Bailey Winston | Staff Reporter

Following President Donald Trump’s election in November, Chancellor Mark Wrighton, on behalf of Washington University, released a statement emphasizing the importance of “[continuing] to make progress in enhancing diversity in our community and in creating an environment where all feel welcome.”

Students and faculty note the importance of Washington University—and of Wrighton in particular—in creating a welcoming University environment for people from different backgrounds.

After his initial statement, Wrighton continued to discuss Washington University’s place in the national political landscape over the next few months, putting out a series of statements that culminated in an appearance on CNN during which he directly criticized Trump’s executive order. The order, recently struck down, proposed a complete ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the United States.

“The executive order issued by the President undermines our effort to strengthen our ties internationally and undermines our efforts to build collaborations that are going to contribute to a stronger, more vibrant U.S. economy,” Wrighton said on CNN.

According to Vice Provost for Admissions and Financial Aid Ronne Turner, creating a diverse community starts with the admissions process.

“One of the great things about Washington University is that we are striving to make sure we have students from all over the United States and the world, from all socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds,” Turner said.

Vice Chancellor for International Affairs James Wertsch noted some of the benefits of a global community.

“We need to create context where you’re going to run into people from China, Israel, Russia, and Mexico so you can hear things that sometimes are shocking but lead to great learning experiences and a complete education,” Wertsch said.

Although courts are still reviewing the constitutionality of the executive order, Turner believes that its effects are already being felt around the world and noted the potential for the order to impact international students’ decision to come to the U.S.

“The United States has long been the destination of choice for international students,” Turner said. “But if we’re no longer perceived as welcoming, that might have an impact.”

Professor of international law Leila Sadat also believes these effects are more than just hypothetical.

“What’s happening is the U.S. is being seen by other countries not directly affected by the ban as unfriendly,” Sadat said. “What I’m seeing at the law school level is international students going to other schools outside the U.S.”

Sadat also noted that many around the world see the current president as “unpredictable” and are therefore scared of coming to the United States.

“The sad part is that a lot of what we try to do as a University is build bridges, but now, it’s as if someone took a sledgehammer to the bridge and said no one could cross anymore,” Sadat said. “We’re retreating into our little United States, which isn’t a very plausible solution in the 21st century.”

Turner said that the University remains apolitical in their actions despite Wrighton’s comments.

“We work hard to be a welcoming community for all students, and it’s important that we continue that work regardless of what happens from a political perspective,” Turner said.

While freshman Saransh Gothi believes that it is unnecessary for the University to take further action against the travel ban, he also noted the importance of supporting the growth of a global community.

“[Washington University]’s global community may not be the largest of all the ones on a college campus, but it makes itself known. Ashoka and other organizations have various events throughout the year like Diwali that made me feel right at home. It is really important to have a global community because all students should have exposure to all cultures,” Gothi said. “There’s not much [Washington University] can do in the face of the proposed ban except letting everyone know that they vehemently oppose it; it is essential that everyone feels safe here.”

Sadat still thinks there is more for the University to do and noted that some colleges around the country have gone further in their efforts to oppose the ban, taking efforts such as declaring themselves sanctuary campuses.

“Preventing students who haven’t done anything wrong from coming into our country just isn’t humane,” Sadat said. “So, I think it’s time people that also feel that way should stand up for it.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.