Inspiring Hope: Solidarity Vigil for Immigrants and Refugees Unity Gathering
On the evening of Thursday, Feb. 2nd, the Skidmore community came to the Arthur Zankel Music Center for a Solidarity Vigil for Immigrants and Refugees, also referred to as a Unity Gathering. As students and faculty filed into the auditorium, their stance on Trump’s recent executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” was clear.
Trump’s order bars people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, all of which are Muslim majority countries, from entering the United States. The order also prohibits all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, and permanently prevents Syrian refugees from entering. There has been talk of additional indefinite bans as well as the possibility of including more countries on the list.
Skidmore’s Unity Gathering began with a moving song about climate change that emphasized the significance of communities coming together to fight against social injustice. Then, diversity representatives who work for the Committee of Intercultural and Global Understanding (CIGU) gave speeches about being there for each other during this difficult time. They also detailed concrete initiatives that they are working on to provide a safer environment at Skidmore for immigrants and refugees. Specifically, they are striving for international students, especially students affected by this ban, to have guaranteed housing throughout the winter, spring and summer breaks, something the faculty then assured would be provided when they addressed the issue during the following day’s Faculty Meeting. Organizers also intend to give students more opportunities for on-campus jobs. To ensure progress on the academic level as well, the representatives suggested the creation of a Black Studies department/major.
A powerful moment during the gathering was when the CIGU read Skidmore’s Diversity and Inclusion statement. Fostering a more diverse and inclusive community is even more relevant today as minorities, international students, and specifically immigrants from the seven travel-banned countries are threatened by the United States government.
Along with the Unity Gathering’s theme of notable poignancy, President Philip Glotzbach’s words were far from neutral. In his speech, the President explained that Skidmore will not voluntarily share the immigration status of its students, which demonstrates that he is dedicated to the safety and protection of the most vulnerable members of the Skidmore community. Though in a follow-up meeting with the Skidmore News, Glotzbach confirmed the college will continue to comply with immigration related subpoenas and other legal compliance requirements that might be sent to the college.
A couple of students who are directly affected by this ban spoke about what this means for them. They spoke about the idea of American values, and how this should be a free country backed by justice. All they want is to be treated with dignity, as all humans deserve. They explained that the United States should be committed to every human regardless of one’s home country, ethnicity, race, gender, or sexual orientation. They also emphasized that the United States exists because settlers immigrated, took the land of others and called it home, making it hard to believe the way this country treats its immigrants today.
The Unity Gathering this past Thursday was a powerful beginning for the Skidmore community’s civil participation against social injustices. It was inspiring to see Zankel filled with students, faculty and concerned citizens. The Skidmore community looks forward to upcoming events and the promise of the administration’s support.
Photo by Lorenzo Brogi-Skoskiewicz '20