President Daniel R. Porterfield issued the following statement Jan. 30 in response to the Trump administration's executive order limiting immigration to the United States.
Dear Members of the Franklin & Marshall Community,
Last Friday afternoon, the White House issued a sweeping executive order that suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and bars entry to the U.S. by citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, among other actions.
While the order bears the name, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States,” there is considerable doubt among national security experts, policymakers, scholars, and the general public about whether it can achieve that worthy goal. Over the weekend, we heard stories of students, professors, green card holders, allied military personnel and translators, and long-suffering refugee families being stopped from entering the United States and large protests were held at many U.S. airports amid anguished questions about the order’s constitutionality.
To members of our community who are Muslim, who hail from another country, or who are newcomers to America, I want to say unequivocally that F&M stands with you. You are full members of this community, now and always. I honor your talents and values and respect your central place here. Diversity, inclusiveness, and international connections are crucial to our mission and our future.
Now, let me share some recent steps we have taken and our approach going forward as we contend with uncertainty:
- We are reaching out to the small number of students, faculty, and staff directly impacted by the executive order. Like many other institutions, we advise community members from these seven countries to avoid all international travel for the immediate future.
- F&M will not provide confidential student or employee records to federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies except where compelled to do so by law.
- We will work diligently to protect our people from discrimination and from any threats to personal liberty, individual dignity, or academic freedom. As we analyze each new development, we are in regular conversation with colleagues at peer institutions, legal advisors, immigration experts, and national higher education associations.
- In recent weeks, I have worked with hundreds of fellow presidents to develop letters calling upon the Trump administration and Congressional leaders to preserve the DACA program, support the proposed BRIDGE Act, protect climate science, and prevent discrimination and harassment.
Looking ahead, there’s so much that each member of our community can do in what is likely to be a sustained period of abrupt changes and concerning scenarios.
First, we are a College that believes deeply in the free and open exchange of ideas in the context of a respectful and inclusive community. That means, consistent with our nondiscrimination statement, we all must continue to recruit stellar students, staff, and faculty regardless of national or ethnic origins or any other protected class or characteristic. In our day-to-day lives, I hope we’ll continue to take the time to come together as friends and equal partners in learning. These gestures mean so much.
Second, now may be a time for F&M community members to become more politically informed and engaged if you feel called to do so. Let’s commit to maintaining a robust dialogue with one another on any and all issues, in class and out of it—especially when we disagree—modeling the combination of intellectual freedom, evidence-based argumentation, and personal respect that our society desperately needs in highly polarized times.
Third, we can take pride and inspiration in being a part of a city that has welcomed 1,300 refugees since 2013—20 times more on a per capita basis than the U.S. as a whole. Lancaster’s inclusive approach to attracting courageous and talented newcomers has made this an even greater community and F&M an even finer college. In that spirit, I encourage you to attend the February 14 opening of acclaimed photographer Kristin Rehder’s exhibition of refugee portraits in the Phillips Museum, “Where Hope Finds Home.” Looking forward, I’m open to any suggestions about what F&M can do in support of Lancaster’s immigrant, refugee, and Muslim communities.
As events continue to unfold, there will be many opportunities for the College to come together to analyze and discuss these critical issues. While much is uncertain, one thing is not: our mission, our work, and our people matter—all of our people.
Thank you for all that you do as a member of the F&M community.
Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D.