SCOTUS Travel Ban Ruling Harms Emory’s Intellectual Diversity

Iran. Libya. North Korea. Somalia. Syria. Venezuela. Yemen.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, individuals from these seven countries will be restricted from entering the United States out of a concern for national security. Debates about constitutional law aside, Executive Order 13,780 is bad policy. The ban is discriminatory — there’s a reason only two of those nations are not Muslim-majority, and it’s because Trump’s first travel ban was ruled unconstitutional after it only targeted Muslim nations. North Koreans and Venezuelans are now being used as legal cannon fodder to mask the Islamophobic rhetoric behind the ban, which was heavily pronounced during President Donald Trump’s campaign. Government officials have historically invoked the language of national security to make discrimination and overreach legal. But this mechanism for legalizing exclusion must be met with continued resistance, especially by American educational institutions.

This ruling flies in the face of Emory University’s mission statement, which seeks to foster a “global perspective on the human condition” while critical community members are being targeted. There are a number of ways the University can minimize the impact of the travel ban. University President Claire E. Sterk released a June 27 statement expressing her disappointment with the Supreme Court decision, setting the tone for the work ahead. She said that the University will continue working to “ensure that Emory’s doors remain open to bright, dedicated thinkers from all nations, faiths, and backgrounds.”Though the University has taken action by submitting amicus briefs and lobbying, it’s important to continue this legal work and remember to take care of Emory community members who are affected by this in the name of preserving intellectual diversity.

Emory could, for example, ensure individuals from these nations are connected with Student Legal Services at the Emory University Law School, similar to how it has helped undocumented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students. The University should also continue to support students who don’t go home during school breaks for fear of being barred upon re-entry by providing housing and work options. Additionally, the University should promote on-campus mental health services to aid the students affected by the travel ban. Emory should make clear that it prioritizes the safety of its diverse community members by encouraging them to discuss the challenges they now face in a forum-style dialogue. The University should also work with the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life (OSRL) to develop structured programs that acknowledge the needs of affected students. Hopefully, OSRL can serve as a bridge between the administration and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) to ensure that proactive steps are taken to protect students affected by the travel ban.

About 5 percent of the University’s 2,000 full-time instructional staff members who are nonresident aliens. Thirty-three percent of Emory’s full-time research staff are also non-resident aliens, which demonstrates the sizeable impact immigrants have on Emory’s academic life.

The University should respond to this Supreme Court ruling by taking substantive action to protect students’ access to and quality of education. Just because our president’s lawyers have managed to finagle a discriminatory policy doesn’t mean that we have to sit by idly. It is in Emory’s best interests to continue to attract and host a variety of world views. As such, Emory should work to guarantee the security that the government has tried to provide for some, but has failed to provide for many others.

The editorial board is composed of Nora Elmubarak, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju and Isaiah Sirois. 

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