Op-eds, Opinions

Paxson P’19: Supporting our students and scholars

Op-ed Contributor
Friday, February 3, 2017

I want to thank the Brown alums who shared their concerns about the executive order on immigration and refugee policy in a Letter to the Editor in the Feb. 2 issue of The Herald.

This is indeed an issue of the utmost importance for Brown, principally because it has significant implications for the personal well-being and mobility of members of our community and their families. Accordingly, in the days since the order was enacted, the University has taken a number of steps to make clear our position and ensure that our international students and scholars are safe, secure and free to study, teach and conduct research at Brown. I would add that we have done so even as developments related to its implementation remain fluid.

For students and scholars from the seven countries covered by the executive order, we have reached out to assure them that Brown is intent on protecting their status as members of the Brown community. More concretely, we are making available the following resources to support these individuals:

— Access to immigration and legal advising;

— Expanded opportunities to remain on campus throughout their time at Brown, including research engagements and internships during University holidays and breaks;

— Housing assistance and other resources during these break periods.

For students and scholars who are prevented from traveling to campus, we are exploring the use of virtual teaching and learning platforms so that these individuals can continue to participate in the Brown educational experience.

For all other international students at Brown who have concerns about whether the executive order will impact their status at the University in any way, we have set in motion a number of processes aimed at providing up-to-date information and answering practical questions.

The Office of Global Engagement, in partnership with relevant offices across campus, will host several community gatherings and information sessions to support our international students. On Feb. 7, a legal advising workshop with an immigration lawyer is planned, followed by a panel discussion that includes staff members responsible for government and community affairs, visas and their compliance and campus life.

We have added additional administrative staff members and an immigration consultant to assist with the increase in traffic to the Office of International Student and Scholar Services, which manages visa services and compliance for the University.

And we are encouraging all Brown community members, especially our international students and scholars, to register their international travel through the Brown University Global Assistance Program so that we can provide up-to-date medical and security information as well as other forms of travel assistance.

With the launch of the Global Brown Community and Support referral system, we are encouraging all members of the Brown community to contact the OGE should they need any assistance to ensure their support and inclusion on campus. The OGE is also meeting with various international student groups and departments to answer questions and provide general support.

Further, I have asked the Office of the Provost to convene a working group comprised of the heads of major units on campus to address issues as they arise in a rapidly changing environment and to think proactively about how to safeguard our international students and scholars going forward.

Lastly, we are creating a web page on Brown’s website that will serve as a central platform for all information, guidance, materials and resources related to the executive order and its impact on our community. We expect that web page to launch in the coming week.

Looking ahead, we anticipate questions from prospective students who are awaiting admissions decisions in the coming months. We are therefore contacting applicants from the seven affected countries to reassure them that the executive order will not in any way affect their chance for admission and that, if admitted, their spots will be held until they are able to secure a visa.

More generally, Brown has made its position on the executive order crystal clear: The order runs counter to our commitment to free inquiry and the advancement of knowledge; it is antithetical in letter and spirit to our insistence that individual students and scholars should be free to pursue their scholarship and learning without fear of intimidation or discrimination of any kind; and it contradicts our unconditional rejection of every form of bigotry, discrimination, xenophobia and harassment.

I firmly believe that education and knowledge creation are global public goods. Our charge as a leading university is to engage fully in the world, bringing the most talented faculty and students to Brown without regard to nationality or religion. The executive order runs counter to American traditions and values, and it restricts the ability of Brown and other institutions of higher education to fulfill their missions.

Brown is working closely with other universities to develop collective responses to the executive order.

On Brown’s behalf, I have signed several letters of condemnation ­—­ from the Association of American Universities, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a group of peer university presidents — calling on the Trump administration to, variously, rescind the executive order; affirm the valuable contributions of international students to research, innovation and economic vitality; and shape immigration policies that honor the founding principles of the United States.

In addition, the University’s initial responses to the executive order are reflected in two statements to our community that are posted on Brown’s website. Going forward, I would encourage alums and all members of our community to check Brown’s website to learn about Brown’s response to this and other issues that may arise in the future.

Finally, the executive order has placed all of us in uncharted territory to some extent, and like so many other colleges and universities, Brown is in the early stages of responding. In light of this, you should know that as Trump administration guidance under the order continues to be developed, it will remain our highest priority to ensure the safety, security and status of all affected Brown students and scholars.

Again, I thank our alums for sharing their views on this critical issue and for their passionate commitment to upholding Brown’s values.

Christina Paxson P’19 is the president of Brown University. She can be reached at president@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.