Following President Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order banning travel into the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries, Brandeis University joined with seven other Boston-area colleges and universities to file an amici curiae in support of a civil action launched against the order. In addition to this institutional action, University President Ron Liebowitz, along with 46 other presidents of higher learning institutions across the country, signed an open letter to the Trump administration decrying the consequences of this executive order to education and the foundational principles of America.
The editorial board of The Brandeis Hoot applauds Brandeis’ action to institutionally support the civil action fighting for repeal of the executive order. We also applaud Liebowitz’ personal action to raise his voice against the harm done to the institution of learning by this order, as well as the personal damage done to students and others living in the United States who are affected by this order.
It is especially important that Brandeis take action against the executive order, since we are an institution dedicated to social justice and international engagement. Many students attend Brandeis with the goal of advancing social justice, and it is important that the school be a model for students. Brandeis needs to be a school of social justice not only in name, but also in its active support for marginalized and threatened students. Twelve Brandeis students possess visas directly affected by the ban, but many students feel that the ban threatens their personal dignity. Many students are also concerned that future executive orders will threaten their ability to travel to and from the United States. For example, the ban focuses on Muslim-majority nations and encourages Islamophobia as a whole. This affects all Muslim students at Brandeis. It also affects many international students, since they worry that the ban might be expanded to include their visas.
The amici curiae focuses on the ban’s limits to university functions. It states that the executive order prevents universities from functioning properly and stifles student learning. This is certainly true at Brandeis. Students’ anxiety about the effects of the order is high, which prevents them from being their best academic selves. Students with visas affected by the ban are essentially trapped in the country, separated from family back home and unable to travel until the ban is hopefully reversed.
While, being written by university presidents, the open letter focuses on the order’s impact on education, it also brings the Trump administration to task for violating basic American principles and calls for direct action in the form of “rectification or rescindment.” This call for direct action is one of the stronger statements that Liebowitz could make in his opposition to the executive order, and we appreciate his commitment to ensuring the safety of Brandeis’ students.
By helping fight the travel ban, Brandeis is doing the right thing. It is important that the Brandeis administration supports students, especially their most vulnerable students. As a university with a reputation for social justice and positive change, the amici curiae is a good first step in the school-wide fight for justice. We hope that, if push comes to shove and the executive order is not repealed or discrimination escalates, Brandeis is willing to match its words with action.