Two Philadelphia colleges have urged international students to delay travel, a response to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump banning refugees and visa holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — predominantly Muslim countries — from entering the United States.
Last week’s executive order, which has been the target of worldwide condemnations and protests, did not sit well with leaders of local college campuses that have many students attending from abroard. Trump says the reason for imposing the restriction is to protect the nation from potential terrorists while his administration reviews the vetting process.
In a letter to the University of Pennsylvania community, President Amy Gutmann noted she was the daughter of a Jewish immigrant who fled from Nazi Germany. She also said her grandfather was an immigrant as well as her son-in-law.
“Immigration strengthens the fabric of this nation and our university,” wrote Gutmann, whose international enrollees comprised 11.5 percent of the undergraduates and 25 percent of graduates in 2015. “Immigrants spark innovation, launch new businesses, and enrich our culture and arts. They are a precious national resource and invaluable to Penn.”
Gutmann said the 120-day ban on entries had already done damage to the freedoms and opportunities of the students at the Ivy League school.
Widener University in Chester is home to 268 international students from 37 countries, and its president, Julie E. Wollman, says discrimination is unacceptable.
“At Widener, we listen to, and learn from each other and we are enriched by the wide variety of perspectives shared,” said Wollman, who also encouraged those affected by the order to take advantage of campus resources. “Widener University does not and will never tolerate discrimination toward any individual or group, and is committed to the safety of all of our students, faculty and staff.”
At Drexel University, president John A. Fry urged international students and scholars from any affected nation to delay traveling outside of the U.S. until the situation was rectified.
“Such a blanket ban is anti-ethical to many of the values we cherish,” Fry said. “Drexel believes in inclusion and equality, and we are committed to celebrating and recognizing the fruits of diversity and global engagement.”
Drexel, whose incoming freshman class in 2015 had 18 percent international students, said it would continue to support students, faculty and professional staff from other countries.
Temple University also affirmed its support for diversity in the school’s enrollment.
“We are committed to enabling our faculty, students and visitors — both from the U.S. and from locations around the globe — to contribute to the vitality of the education we provide and the role we play in the local, regional and global economy,” said the university’s president, Richard M. Englert. “We embrace diversity as integral to our mission of education and discovery. Temple is a better university because of this diversity.”
Temple has undergraduate and graduate students from 118 countries, with China accounting for the biggest chunk, 44 percent, and Kuwait about a smaller portion, 5 percent, according to its 2015-16 Fact Book.
University officials urged any student who might be affected by the visa suspension to reach out to its International Student and Scholar Services Office for specific information or questions regarding the ban.
An immigration attorney, Elise Fialkowski, will be on hand at 4 p.m. Feb. 10 in the Quick Center 203 at the Widener campus in Chester to discuss permanent residence for immigrants as well as the effect of Trump’s executive order.