Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Developments

Inside Higher Ed reports on a movement to boycott U.S. academic conferences in response to recent executive actions of the Trump administration:

The new target of the academic boycott movement is the United States. More than 3,000 academics from around the world have signed on to a call to boycott international academic conferences held in the United States in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s executive order barring entry by nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries. The ban on entry into the U.S. has left some students and scholars with valid visas stranded outside the country while others are stuck inside it, unable to leave the U.S. for personal or professional reasons for fear they won't be let back in.
The entry ban, which affects nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, has been widely condemned as discriminatory and as undermining values central to American higher education such as inclusion, openness and internationalism. Civil rights groups have described it as a pretext for banning the entry of Muslims, which Trump explicitly called for during his campaign.
“When we saw the recent news about what’s been dubbed the Muslim ban, we questioned what we could do as academics,” said Nadine El-Enany, a lecturer in law at Birkbeck School of Law at the University of London and an organizer of the call to boycott conferences.
"As academics, we felt that the best way that we could demonstrate very clearly that we are unwilling to benefit from privileges that are so unfairly, unjustly denied others is to refuse to take up those privileges but also to clearly indicate that our business, as educators, cannot go on as normal while such an emergency is happening," said El-Enany, who has withdrawn from an upcoming conference on law, culture and the humanities hosted by Stanford University. Signatories to the document calling for a boycott of international conferences held in the U.S. pledge not to attend them while the ban is in place. The document goes on to state, "We question the intellectual integrity of these spaces and the dialogues they are designed to encourage while Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded from them."...
The president of MIT sent out the message below:
To the members of the MIT community,
For those of you who have been following the developments at MIT since Friday, I was hoping to write to you today with some uplifting news. Yet, as I write, we continue to push hard to bring back to MIT those members of our community, including two undergraduates, who were barred from the US because of the January 27 Executive Order on immigration. We are working personally with all the affected individuals we are aware of. If you know of other students, faculty or staff who are directly affected, please inform us immediately so we can try to help...

Over and over since the order was issued, I have been moved by the outpouring of support from hundreds across our community. I could not be more proud, and I am certain that you join me in thanking everyone inside and outside of MIT whose extraordinary efforts have helped us address this difficult situation. We hope we can welcome everyone back to MIT very soon.

MIT, the nation and the world

I found the events of the past few days deeply disturbing. The difficulty we have encountered in seeking to help the individuals from our community heightens our overall sense of concern. I would like to reflect on the situation we find ourselves in, as an institution and as a country.

MIT is profoundly American. The Institute was founded deliberately to accelerate the nation’s industrial revolution. With classic American ingenuity and drive, our graduates have invented fundamental technologies, launched new industries and created millions of American jobs. Our history of national service stretches back to World War I; especially through the work of Lincoln Lab, we are engaged every day in keeping America safe. We embody the American passion for boldness, big ideas, hard work and hands-on problem-solving. Our students come to us from every faith, culture and background and from all fifty states. And, like other institutions rooted in science and engineering, we are proud that, for many of our students, MIT supplies their ladder to the middle class, and sometimes beyond. We are as American as the flag on the Moon.

At the same time, and without the slightest sense of contradiction, MIT is profoundly global. Like the United States, and thanks to the United States, MIT gains tremendous strength by being a magnet for talent from around the world. More than 40% of our faculty, 40% of our graduate students and 10% of our undergraduates are international. Faculty, students, post-docs and staff from 134 other nations join us here because they love our mission, our values and our community. And – as I have – a great many stay in this country for life, repaying the American promise of freedom with their energy and their ideas. Together, through teaching, research, and innovation, MIT’s magnificently global, absolutely American community pursues its mission of service to the nation and the world.

What the moment demands of us

The Executive Order on Friday appeared to me a stunning violation of our deepest American values, the values of a nation of immigrants: fairness, equality, openness, generosity, courage. The Statue of Liberty is the “Mother of Exiles”; how can we slam the door on desperate refugees? Religious liberty is a founding American value; how can our government discriminate against people of any religion? In a nation made rich by immigrants, why would we signal to the world that we no longer welcome new talent? In a nation of laws, how can we reject students and others who have established legal rights to be here? And if we accept this injustice, where will it end? Which group will be singled out for suspicion tomorrow?

On Sunday, many members of our campus community joined a protest in Boston to make plain their rejection of these policies and their support for our Muslim friends and colleagues. As an immigrant and the child of refugees, I join them, with deep feeling, in believing that the policies announced Friday tear at the very fabric of our society.

I encourage anyone who shares that view to work constructively to improve the situation. Institutionally, though we may not be vocal in every instance, you can be confident we are paying attention; as we strive to protect our community, sustain our mission and advance our shared values, we will speak and act when and where we judge we can be most effective.

Yet I would like us to think seriously about the fact that both within the MIT community and the nation at large, there are people of goodwill who see the measures in the Executive Order as a reasonable path to make the country safer. We would all like our nation to be safe. I am convinced that the Executive Order will make us less safe. Yet all of us, across the spectrum of opinion, are Americans. 

In this heated moment, I urge every one of us to avoid with all our might the forces that are driving America into two camps. If we love America, and if we believe in America, we cannot allow those divisions to grow worse. We need to imagine a shared future together, if we hope to have one. I am certain our community can help work on this great problem, too, by starting right here at home.

L. Rafael Reif

The message above went by email to those at MIT plus alumni (of which yours truly is one).

No comments: