In an email sent to the Barnard community on Sunday afternoon, President Debora Spar denounced President Donald Trump's recent ban on immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations, calling on the college community to stand up for its beliefs and its members.
Spar's email—which came after a message early Sunday morning from University President Lee Bollinger, who also denounced the ban as going against the University's basic mission—described the order as both "chilling and personal."
"The tone of the order is irrefutable and deeply disturbing, raising serious concerns about how our country is poised to treat refugees, immigrants, and diverse members of our nation over the next four years," she wrote.
Spar cited her daughter's foreign adoption from Russia and her husband's immigration to Canada and then the United States in her email, pointing out her own experiences with immigration offices.
"My family was lucky," she wrote. "I fear now that others may not be, and worry about all the members of our extended community whose lives and dreams have been thrown into uncertainty by our nation's changing policies."
Although Columbia confirmed yesterday that no students at the university have been affected by the ban, Spar's letter recommended that concerned students should see Associate Dean of International and Intercultural Student Programs Wendy Garay, and that faculty should see Dean of International and Global Strategy Giorgio DiMauro in the Provost's Office.
A town hall is being scheduled by Dean of the College Avis Hinkson and Provost Linda Bell to discuss the implications of the ban, with details forthcoming.
Though Spar said the college could not take a political stance on the ban, she urged individuals to do so.
"As a liberal arts college—as Barnard—we have a duty and a mission to engage in the debates that define our world," Spar wrote. "Read widely. Follow closely. Protest when you see things that concern you, as I know many of you already have, and learn how best to engage in the political process."
Read the full text of the email below.
To All Members of the Barnard Community,
As you no doubt know by now, President Trump signed an executive order on Friday that bans refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. As of this morning, the legal status of the order is uncertain: federal courts in New York, Boston, and elsewhere have partially halted its implementation. But the tone of the order is irrefutable and deeply disturbing, raising serious concerns about how our country is poised to treat refugees, immigrants, and diverse members of our nation over the next four years.
In this moment of uncertainty, we advise all community members who are from the designated countries or have dual citizenship with them to suspend their plans for international travel, and to keep in touch as the situation develops. Students who are planning international travel, or international students who have any concerns about their visa status should feel free to seek counsel from Wendy Garay in the Office of International and Intercultural Student Programs. Staff and faculty should similarly feel free to consult with Giorgio DiMauro in the Provost's Office.
Clearly, though, the implications of President Trump's order reach far beyond the seven listed countries and the Syrian refugees whose path to the United States has now been put in jeopardy. Instead, the order signals what could become a fundamental change in U.S. philosophy and policy; a move away from the embrace of immigration that has long marked our nation in favor of an "America First" strategy. There are arguments to be made on all sides of the political spectrum, of course, and a host of policy choices about which reasonable people can disagree.
But for many of us, the tone and direction of the order feel both chilling and personal, signaling a fundamental change in how this nation operates, and what it holds dear. We are a nation of immigrants, after all, and nearly all of us have immigrants in our immediate family or our not-so-distant past. My husband was an immigrant twice — to Canada, and then to the United States. My daughter was born in Russia, and came to the United States on an adoption visa. I have sat, scared, in immigration offices more often than I would like to remember. But my family was lucky. I fear now that others may not be, and worry about all the members of our extended community whose lives and dreams have been thrown into uncertainty by our nation's changing policies.
So what can we, as a liberal arts college, do? How can we advance our core commitments — to social justice, to education, to intellectual exchange — during such precarious times?
First is to protect and support the members of our community, and the extended communities to which each of them belongs. We will do all we can from the administrative side to provide this support, and I urge each of you to think about other ways to provide help and comfort to those who may now be in need. Second is to engage in the kinds of intellectual discourse that define our mission and our campus. We have among us many scholars who are expert in the topics raised by this new order, and by our new political regime. We need to turn to them, to rely on their wisdom, and to engage in the kinds of research that can further enlighten the situation that now confronts us. Provost Bell and Dean Hinkson are working today on plans for a Town Hall to address some of the issues raised by Friday's order. We will be in touch shortly with details of this event.
Third, as a liberal arts college — as Barnard — we have a duty and a mission to engage in the debates that define our world. While the college as an organization cannot take a political stand, each of us as individuals can. I urge you, therefore, to engage in the change that is now underway. Read widely. Follow closely. Protest when you see things that concern you, as I know many of you already have, and learn how best to engage in the political process.
These are troubling times. It is up to each of us not to stand idly by, but to do whatever we can to be part of our country and our community, and to help shape the world we want to see.
Debora L. Spar