Faculty respond to executive order, President’s statement

After 14 years at the university, Adrian Gentle said this is the only time he has felt the mission of the university has been threatened by the government.

The associate professor of mathematics, who came to the university in 2002 from Australia, said he is not a U.S. citizen and wonders about his place in the county going forward.

“I saw the executive order as being totally against what I do as a scientist,” he said. “I go to meetings and I have collaborations and I talk to people around the world. Arbitrarily labeling people and telling them that they’re off limits is against what I believe as an academic.”

President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13769 on Jan. 27, which temporarily bans immigrants from seven Majority-Muslim nations and indefinitely suspends immigrants and refugees from Syria.

“When an action like this so blatantly violates what we claim to believe, we have the responsibility to stand up and say ‘no that’s not right,’” Gentle said. “I think a university is a place for discussion and ideas and for scholars and students to work together and I think diversity is important for that. I great strength of the American education system is that it has always brought the best people around the world, both students and academics.”

Numerous lawsuits have challenged the order since it was singed. On Feb. 3, in the court case State of Washington v. Trump, Judge James Robart issued a temporary restraining order, which prevents many of the provisions of the order from being enacted.

Gentle said he was also disappointed in university President Linda Bennett’s statement regarding the order. He said the statement didn’t encapsulate the values of a university, and he hoped it would have gone further.

The statement, which was sent to all students, faculty and staff on Jan. 30, said the university was “following developments closely and with deep concern for the wellbeing of our community and our nation.” It did not specifically denounce the order.

“It’s important that we defend our values that we claim to hold,” Gentle said. “The values of inclusiveness and diversity and respect for everyone regardless of national origin and race and all of those other things. It could have been a more full-throated defense of the role of a university.”

In response to the order, the Faculty Senate released its own statement citing that the order contradicts the university’s mission of living in a diverse and global community.

Rex Strange, a member of Faculty Senate, said that one of his concerns is making sure that everyone feels welcome at the university.

“I think as far as faculty senate getting a letter out is something that we as faculty can do to let students and faculty know that we care about what’s going on,” he said.

Strange, an associate professor of biology, said he has international students in his classes and they are also concerned with the order. He said he talked to one of his students from Thailand and showed her the letter that was going to be discussed at the senate meeting.

“She brought up some things I hadn’t really thought about a lot,” he said. “She pointed out to me that she is not of the nationality that the ban is targeted against. She is not a Muslim, but she does recognize the racism that has been growing at attention. I don’t see the same things that students see, let alone an international student or someone of a different race.”

Strange said it is important that the senate shows itself as a role model and wants both international students and faculty to feel like they belong at the university.

“We are part of an international community whether people want to ignore that fact or not,” he said. We hire people based on their skills and their talents, not necessarily where they came from.”

A federal appeals panel rejected President Trump’s bid to reinstate particular parts of the order, and Trump has vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“Do I feel welcome in this country?” Gentle said. “I am still asking myself that question.”


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