‘Chilling effect:’ U.S. travel ban a ‘grave’ concern for academic community

Western joined a litany of postsecondary voices earlier this week, all expressing concern over a recent executive order issued by U.S. President Donald Trump, banning individuals from seven countries, with Muslim majorities, from entering the United States for 90 days.

“Western is home to approximately 175 students and many faculty, staff and visitors from countries included in the ban, and we are deeply concerned about the potential hardship this could cause them and their families,” Western President Amit Chakma said in a statement issued Monday.

Trump signed the executive order on Jan. 27 and a number of universities and groups representing postsecondary institutions have since issued statements indicating a stand against the order’s travel ban.

“The executive order restricting travel into the U.S. affects research partnerships, international studies, academic conference participation, field visits and, in some cases, family relationships of our university students, faculty and staff. The new order is having an impact on Canadian campuses and communities that is real, immediate and profound,” Universities Canada indicated in its statement.

The collective voice of Canadian universities, at home and abroad, Universities Canada supports the call from the American Association of Universities for Trump’s ban to “end as quickly as possible.”

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, of which Western is a member, likewise, noted the “ability of faculty to continue teaching or conducting research is uncertain” because of the order.

Chakma said Western is particularly worried about “the chilling effect” of the ban and its detrimental effects on the transfer of knowledge.

“The problems of our world are highly complex and no one nation has all the answers. It is through the sharing and exchange of ideas and research findings that progress is, and will be, made,” he said.

Julie McMullin, Western’s Vice-Provost & Associate Vice-President (International), is striking a committee to monitor the situation and will provide updates on new developments that directly affect the campus community.

“It is through the sharing of ideas, multiple voices and perspectives that real solutions are brought to fruition to solve difficult global problems. By reducing the ability of scholars to study and collaborate freely across borders, the travel ban goes against the concept of global citizenship we aspire to encourage within our students and future leaders,” McMullin said, echoing Chakma’s remarks.

Some Western scholars have begun to pull out of conferences in the United States, while others have chosen to go to show solidarity with their American colleagues, she added.

Trump’s travel ban, which lists seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia – encroaches on the lives and freedoms of the 175 students and many other members of the Western community who call those countries home, McMullin continued.

“Their studies and research are directly affected by the ban, in addition to the personal and emotional stress they carry for themselves and their loved ones. Now, more than ever, Western must welcome all international students and provide support to help them succeed,” she stressed.

Western International has developed a website, which can be accessed off its main page, dedicated to the travel ban to provide updates on new developments for the campus community. Plans are also underway to host an event at which Western can demonstrate its commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion, as well as its support and appreciation of international students, faculty and staff.

The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA), likewise, offered its support, noting its concern over the travel ban while offering support to the academic community.

“This ban creates barriers that run counter to academic freedom and the pursuit of intellectual inquiry – the very tenets of our international community of scholars. We are alarmed about the unpredictable and far-reaching implications this ban will have,” said UWOFA President Ann Bigelow.

“UWOFA stands in solidarity with all individuals, regardless of their country of origin, race or religion. There is simply no room for discrimination in our diverse society.”

Members of the Western community with concerns about the implications of the executive order can contact Western International at iesc@uwo.ca.

***

The full text of Western President Amit Chakma’s statement on U.S. travel restrictions:

Western is adding its voice to those of universities across North America expressing grave concern regarding the recent executive order banning individuals from seven countries with Muslim majorities from entering the United States for 90 days.

Western is home to approximately 175 students and many faculty, staff and visitors from countries included in the ban, and we are deeply concerned about the potential hardship this could cause them and their families.

As highlighted in a statement made by Universities Canada, the travel ban also affects research partnerships, international studies, academic conference participation, and field visits. Indeed, the executive order is having an impact on Canadian campuses and communities that is real, immediate and profound.

We join Universities Canada, the Association of American Universities, and the Association of Public Land-grant Universities, along with our U.S. colleagues and partner institutions, in their calls to the American government to rescind this executive order as soon as possible. We worry about the chilling effect this ban will have on the transfer of knowledge. The problems of our world are highly complex and no one nation has all the answers. It is through the sharing and exchange of ideas and research findings that progress is and will be made.

We echo Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commentary: “To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.” The same spirit holds true here at Western, where we welcome students, faculty and staff from around the world, including those seeking refuge from violence and hardship. They strengthen our campus community, bringing new knowledge, ideas, perspectives, talent and skills for the benefit of all Canadians.

Western’s Vice-Provost & Associate Vice-President International is striking a committee to monitor the situation and will provide updates on new developments that directly affect our campus community. A website will be developed for this purpose. Plans are also underway to host an event at which we can demonstrate our commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion, as well as express our support and appreciation of international students, faculty and staff.

In the meantime, students, faculty, staff and other members of the Western community with concerns about the implications of the executive order can contact Western International at iesc@uwo.ca.

Sincerely,

Amit Chakma
President & Vice-Chancellor