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Professional Opinion

A promise of solidarity with foreign college students

Higher ed upholds the American principle of inclusiveness
University Business, March 2017
Steven DiSalvo is president of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the New England Council and the Higher Education Commission of the State of New Hampshire.
Steven DiSalvo is president of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the New England Council and the Higher Education Commission of the State of New Hampshire.

In response to the White House’s Executive Order titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States,” we as leaders at colleges and universities have had to take decisive action to protect our foreign students and faculty members, and to allay the fears of the many domestic students who travel overseas to study.

As you know, the order put in place new standards for refugee, immigrant and nonimmigrant entry onto our shores.

Saint Anselm College, like virtually all our neighbors in higher education, is an institution that places great value on the contributions of our international students, faculty and staff. We are committed to providing support and resources to those in need, and to upholding our mission and values of diversity and inclusiveness.

Core values

Having just returned from the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), I stand by the organization’s statement, which bears my signature, and which contains the following language: “Pope Francis has said that ‘authentic hospitality is our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism.’

“As ACCU gathers ... to celebrate the value of diversity within Catholic higher education, we reaffirm the commitment of our institutions to creating inclusive, welcoming campus environments that embrace people of all faiths and cultures.

“Catholic higher education was founded precisely to serve the children of Catholic immigrants who in their own time were excluded from higher education. This is a legacy that we proudly pledge to continue.”

In addition, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, of which I am a board member, signed the American Council on Education’s letter to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, saying: 

“The executive order contains language indicating that DHS has some flexibility in implementing it. We thank you for exercising that authority in the case of lawful permanent residents (green card holders). We urge you to continue to use this discretion whenever possible for students and scholars who clearly pose no threat.”

Indeed, hospitality is not only our greatest security against hatred and violence, but also one of the core values which we seek always to live.

I hope all citizens will keep the immigrants and refugees of every nation in your thoughts today and every day, and remember that we value their contributions to American society, just as our predecessors welcomed the millions of immigrants who arrived here during each century dating back even prior to our nation’s founding.

Uncertain future

While the ultimate outcome of the president’s order (and subsequent orders and legislation) is uncertain—it may take months for clear policies to develop—we know that the current situation may directly impact our communities.

We have advised those from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, legally residing in the United States, to avoid travel outside the U.S. during this period, if possible, and to consult an immigration attorney if travel is necessary.

We pledge to help in any way we can and to continue to create a welcoming community that does not change the way of American life as it has been since the Founding Fathers determined that we would live under the tenet of liberty and justice for all, without discrimination based on religion.

Steven DiSalvo is president of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the New England Council and the Higher Education Commission of the State of New Hampshire.

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