SUNY-ESF students express concerns about President Donald Trump’s travel ban

Emmy Gnat | Head Illustrator

SUNY-ESF's students are concerned about their fellow students as well as the open flow of ideas and scientific contributions.

Students at SUNY-ESF have asked that the university do what it can to protect students affected by United States President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

There are nine students at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry that would be directly impacted by the ban, said Mark Lichtenstein, the director of sustainability at SUNY-ESF.

SUNY-ESF’s Division of Student Affairs and the Office of International Education hosted an “international community discussion” on Wednesday for all SUNY-ESF students to share their thoughts about the recent executive order. Interim Provost Valerie Luzadis and President Quentin Wheeler, along with other administrators and faculty members, attended the event.

A U.S. federal judge in Seattle has since temporarily blocked the enforcement of the travel ban. Trump signed the controversial order on Jan. 27 that prevents people from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the country for the next 90 days, and all refugee admissions for 120 days. This order also includes those with student visas.

A little over a dozen international students at SUNY-ESF shared their stories, confusions and fears of persecution in the U.S. after the ban was announced. They asked Kevin Hayden, a lawyer representing the SUNY system who was in attendance, questions about the ban’s impact, and told their concerns for the future.

Several students at the discussion said that although colleges can’t do anything to change the executive order, they should protecting their students.

“We’re working every day so we can become as supportive as possible,” Wheeler said at the discussion.

Benjamin Taylor, the president of SUNY-ESF’s Undergraduate Student Association, said in a separate interview before the event that he expects the executive order will have negative repercussions particularly to SUNY-ESF because the college is focused on sustainability.

One of the SUNY-ESF’s main concerns, Taylor added, is the free flow of ideas.

“Science has no boundaries to religion, race or origin,” he said. “The movement of people comes with the movement of ideas and collaboration. That’s being hampered when you say we can’t have people from these countries.”

While the Undergraduate Student Association is not currently pushing through any resolutions regarding the travel ban, Taylor said he believes the student body generally opposes the travel ban on the basis of it being “strictly discriminatory towards people specifically of the Muslim faith.”

SUNY is also in the process of reviewing Trump’s executive order and its impact on the entirety of the state school system. There are 64 schools in the system, including SUNY-ESF.

There are 22,140 international students enrolled at SUNY schools, 320 of which are from the countries that were originally blocked from entry into the U.S. before the judge’s Friday ruling.

In a statement released last Sunday announcing the university-wide survey, SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall and Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said they remain committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and pledged that the university leadership and police will “do all we can” to protect students, faculty and staff affected by the ban as long as it is within the law.

The statement also advised that international students from the seven countries affected by the ban should refrain from traveling outside of the U.S.


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