Fighting a Sad Retreat of American Values
The Editorial Board did not endorse Hillary Clinton in November. The board privately supported Clinton, but felt that dedicating an editorial to endorse her would be a redundant addition to the anti-Trump chorus in the national media and at Skidmore. Ultimately, the Skidmore community voted decisively for Clinton as we thought it would. We did not support Trump because he campaigned on a platform of bigotry and we should not be surprised by what has come out of the White House in only the first week and a half of his presidency.
That being said, Americans must stand together now to oppose racism and authoritarianism. For colleges and college newspapers, that means we must stand in opposition to backwardness. This country has a disappointing history of racism, discrimination and rejection of refugees. To be quiet is to accept a future of tyranny; now more than ever, citizens of this country must demand a basic threshold of humanity and civility, an embrace not rejection of our commitment to freedom and opportunity for all.
Trump’s executive order, issued Friday Jan. 27, banned all refugees from Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, and Iran for the next 120 days. Syrian refugees are banned until further policy from the White House. Other immigrants will be subject to “extreme vetting.” The order was met by public resistance as hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in airport terminals in major cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and New York City.
Students at Skidmore are not immune to the situation. Three Skidmore students are directly affected by the ban because of their citizenship. Though, all three were on campus when the Executive Order was signed, according to Darren Drabek, Coordinator of International Student and Scholar Services. Other Skidmore international students, particularly those from Muslim majority countries not listed in the order, are hesitant to travel out of fear of not being readmitted to the United States for finishing their education. International student advisers remain available to answer questions and provide guidance. Skidmore has also retained legal counsel for students who need help.
Colleges across America have found themselves in a similar situation, and some have responded by declaring themselves as “sanctuary campuses,” a move some students at Skidmore support. Becoming a sanctuary campus, which entails not complying with the federal government in any effort to obtain information about a student’s country of origin or immigration status, could protect some students from the deportation process in the event that the government attempts to remove them. However, doing so could preclude Skidmore from receiving millions of dollars of federal grant money allocated for financial aid. At this point, only a small number of colleges have self-declared sanctuary status, and many of those schools have endowments of over one billion dollars. President Glotzbach declined to comment on this matter for the time being since the policy is still under consideration at colleges nationwide.
In a strong statement sent to the Skidmore community on Sunday, Jan. 29, President Glotzbach did reiterate Skidmore’s commitment to non-discriminatory practices, fostering inclusive excellence and promoting intercultural awareness and global understanding. It was a much-needed statement by the administration. The President also encouraged community members to seek support from counseling services, student academic services, and the Dean of Students, among other offices and resources.
Even as a small school in Upstate New York, Skidmore should not exclude itself from national citizenry. Students should do what feels right for them. Some students have protested, given money to legal defense funds, or both. Others have taken to regularly reading the news and speaking frequently with their community members and their elected representatives by phone or email. In any case, students can continue to look out for their community and themselves. The counseling center’s doors are open daily and group therapy is always an option, free of charge, even for those who have used their eight, private session allotment. Sometimes, unity can arise out of sad situations and trying times. Students should take this time to come together and advocate for the country they want.
Photo by istock.com/mfhiatt