by Sam Spence
In the crescendo of demonstrations responding to President Donald Trump's order barring refugees and immigrants from some predominantly-Muslim nations, it's not surprising that many politicians and public officials rushed to state their positions on the controversial topic. (Most of the time... looking at you Tom Rice.)
But leaders of S.C. colleges and universities were also among the first to publicly recognize the role their institutions can play in cultivating diverse ideas and beliefs from across the world into opportunities for personal and intellectual growth on their campuses. According to the Institute of International Education, more than 17,000 students from the countries banned in Trump's executive order were enrolled in American schools during the 2015-2016 year. In an open letter petition posted at NoToImmigrationBan.com, dozens of S.C. academics have expressed solidarity against the order they call "unethical and discriminatory."
One of the most vocal U.S. residents caught by the ban is Nazanin Zinouri, a recent Clemson PhD graduate from Iran working in Greenville. In an op-ed in the Washington Post today, Zinouri says she is unsure of her future: "What happens to my job, my life, my American Dream? ... as far as the U.S. government is concerned, my life doesn’t matter. Nothing I worked for all these years matters."
Officials from CofC, the Citadel, USC, and Clemson are among those who have reacted to the ban. A Trident Tech spokesman told the City Paper that none of its students were affected by the order, so they had not issued any statements on the matter.
College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell:
"While there is uncertainty regarding the impact of this Executive Order, let there be no confusion regarding how the College values our international students, faculty and staff and those who have immigrated to the United States. They are an integral part of the College of Charleston experience, providing diversity of thought, belief and expression and playing a critical role in the free exchange of ideas and cultures — a cornerstone of our educational experience. And there should also be no confusion about the College’s commitment to religious freedom."
Citadel Provost and Dean Connie Book:
"We are highly committed to the 60 cadets and graduate college students attending The Citadel from other nations, and to our international study programs that take our students around the world to learn in other cultures … International education opportunities on and off campus are a powerful factor in the development of principled leaders."
USC President Harris Pastides, on Twitter:
"We value int'l students, faculty & staff and are committed to their safety and success regardless of religion, ethnicity or nat'l origin."
Clemson President Jim Clements:
"Our international students, faculty and staff, and their families, are a valued and vital part of our university community. Furthermore, diversity and inclusion are foundational values of our university and necessary for Clemson to fulfill its mission."