Monday, January 30, 2017

Executive Order restricting access from Muslim-majority countries

On Thursday, February 16, President Trump promised that a revised Executive Order will be issued within the week to replace the earlier EO that resulted in outcries from higher education groups and leaders. He indicated that the new EO will "be very much tailored to the, what I consider to be a very bad (court) decision, but we can tailor the order to that decision and get just about everything, in some ways more" than the original sought to accomplish. President Trump issued a revised order on March 6. Those in higher education viewed the "newly revised entry ban as an improvement from the original but still highly problematic for international educational exchange and research collaborations." International students and scholars who already have visas are exempt from the new Executive Order but future enrollment projections are already declining with the perception that internationals are not welcome in the U.S.A. Background and responses to the original EO follow.

"The immediate implementation of the Executive Order by U.S.A. President Trump to bar "immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. has had immediate effects on scholars and students. More than 17,000 students in the U.S. come from the seven countries affected by the immediate 90-day entry ban: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen," wrote Elizabeth Redden for Inside Higher Education.

A group of 48 university presidents and chancellors, including all of the top-level Ivy League, sent a letter of protest to President Trump. The letter included reference to the U.S.A. as a country that "has attracted talented people to our shores and inspired people around the globe," a reputation now stained by President Trump's actions. Many other leaders in U.S.A. higher education institutions and organizations issued statements and faculty at Clemson University staged a hunger strike to press their president into more pointed condemnation. Esther D. Brimmer, Executive Director and CEO of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA) said "The latest executive order, egregious enough in its aim to suspend the refugee program and to enact a blanket ban on visa approvals from these seven nations and Syrian refugees fleeing violence, has also caused enormous collateral damage in its implementation. Universities and colleges have already begun reporting cases of students and scholars stranded after traveling for reasons including study abroad, attending conferences and visiting sick or dying family members."

The Trump administration said that the Executive Order rolled out with few hitches but students, faculty and institution leaders expressed otherwise. Evidence gathered on graduate school applications collected before the 2016 Presidential elections indicated that international student interest had already leveled off; fears mounted that President Trump's election, his isolationist inclination, and Executive Order would send a message that international students were not welcome in the U.S.A., causing further decline. With international students' worries rising, Robert Quinn of Scholars at Risk encouraged higher education leaders to work harder to protect the campus environment by continuing to serve international students well, telling the truth about the vetting that is already in place, and by continuing campus dialogue about internationalization and inclusivity.

The irrelevance of official passport designation was one of the issues of concerning because government officials failed to clarify their stance. Homeland Security stated "that dual nationals who are citizens of a non banned country can enter, with the caveat that they will be treated according to the country whose passport they represent." Such a statement was anything but clear and those from banned countries (this is Homeland Security language) were probably best served not to travel. The "Iranian Next Door" FACEBOOK page was initiated for Iranians in the U.S.A. to share their stories; Ali Rostami, a Ph.D. student at Rutgers posted, "I spent last four years of my life to help developing driving safety systems for American people to get hurt less and American companies to make more profit. Frankly, I think if they ever say we don't want you (with continuing the ban), I'd simply say goodbye... I'm confident that I'll be fine finding a highly paid job in Europe."

The impact on those with passports from the targeted countries, or those who traveled through or associated with those from the seven Muslim-majority countries, wasn't higher education leaders' only concern. The Executive Order had the potential to exacerbate tensions associated with diversity initiatives on campuses and be a catalyst for hostile environment conditions that would negatively impact international students already in the U.S.A. or deter others who would otherwise consider studying in the U.S.A. In the face of potentially contentious conditions on campus, Yolanda T. Moses urged educators to; support undocumented students, protect protestors of all persuasions, enforce policies and act to prevent sexual assault, and reinforce global learning and engagement (i.e. student abroad, international student programs, curriculum projects). Others advocated the #WeAreInternational movement and official statements to send a clear message about supporting international students, scholars, and programs.

Some of those in U.S.A government positions took issue with the Executive Order. International shock and opposition were also voiced. As the controversy grew, educational associations began to look at pulling conferences from the U.S.A. that involve international audiences. Some international visitors who wanted to attend academic conferences have chosen not to bother and in other cases were threatened with detention and deportation. Pulling conferences in the U.S.A. would result in loss of revenue to cities and venues as well as isolation of domestic scholars from the broader international academic world.

Challenges to the Executive Order were successful in postponing the bans on refugee and visitor visas, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's decision to sustain the restraining order. While the stay offered, and continues to offer, a window of opportunity for some, it has continued to create fear and confusion for many. The negative impact on higher education was noted in Judge Robart's initial stay and was reinforced by the appeal decision. The "damaging effects" of the Executive Order became a cornerstone of the amicus brief filed by the state attorney general of New York on behalf of 17 elite U.S. universities that asserted, "The uncertainty generated by the order and its implementation is already having negative impacts well beyond persons from the seven affected countries. People from all over the world are understandably anxious about having their visas prematurely canceled through no fault of their own."

Analysis by the Washington Post and the advocacy of many educators admonish that words matter, citing candidate Trump's own words to indicate that the Executive Order is part of a long series of his proclamations calling for a "Muslim-ban." The breadth and implications of previous statements renders any defense, or subsequent attempts to propose an alternative Executive Order, immediately suspect. A revised Executive Order (this time with only 6 Muslim-majority countries on the list) was to have been implemented on March 16, 2017. It was again blocked, this time by Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii. A judge in Maryland followed Judge Watson's ruling. The jurists' opinions in both cases referenced campaign and post-election comments by Trump and his key advisors. Yes, words do matter, as many are increasingly recognizing. Indeed, as the Trump administration threatens to go all the way to the Supreme Court to clear the way for its Executive Order, a new day of juris prudence may be on the horizon; the intent versus the letter of the law is likely to be central to the dispute.

Beyond President Trump's words, the words of those who oppose the Executive Order are important as well. President of Robert Williams University, David Farish, encouraged college and university presidents to reclaim a middle ground as they address political issues so that students learn by seeing civil discourse modeled in their institutions. Farrah Assiraj, a former undocumented immigrant and founder of Peregrinum, provided tips on how teachers can talk about the Executive Order, the idea of a Muslim ban.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Make America Great by welcoming international students

The U.S.A. is envied world-wide because of the vast diversity and quality of its higher education system. It is currently the #1 country hosting international students but it is slipping. With one million international students representing only 5% of the total enrollment in its colleges and universities, its share of the world total has declined from 23% in 2000 to 16% in 2012. Ryan Craig says, "We (meaning the U.S.A.) are punching below our weight -- and way below our reputation."

Craig reflected that the "Make America Great" President made much of his fortune as a hotelier, or host, and that the importance of properly hosting international students would do much to secure the educational, economic, and reputational benefit of one of America's most valued attributes - quality higher education. Part of hosting involves making student visa processing less, not more, challenging and the other part is recognizing the desire of many talented students to remain in the U.S.A. post graduation to undertake initial job training.

The benefits of hosting international students are many. Looking particularly at the benefit to advancing science, the list of the best young scientists in the U.S.A. revealed that 68% of those ranked were the children of parents who came for university study from other counties.

"Make America Great" has drawn the ire of many both within and outside of the U.S.A. By leveraging higher education in positive ways for all, perhaps some of the tarnish may be buffed off the infamous catch-phrase. With other countries positioning themselves (Canada and Australia in particular) to take advantage of the hostility some internationals perceive emerging in the U.S.A., a strategy is needed and asserting "You are welcome here" isn't enough.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trump's Exec Order puts up more walls

No less than one week after new President of the U.S.A., Donald Trump, was inaugurated, he is moving ahead to implement mechanisms to close borders to those from Muslim-majority countries. This was part of his campaign platform even though; 1) the U.S.A. already has some of the toughest immigration clearance processes in the world, 2) the majority of the presumed 'terrorists' the ban is intended to block are home-grown, and 3) sweeping generalizations about entire segments of the world perpetuate stereotypes and reinforce the resentment among these populations toward the U.S.A.

Little comment has been offered about how Donald Trump's actions divide and vilify various groups within and outside U.S.A. borders. Limiting or banning visitors and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries also spawns suspicion and fear of Muslim-Americans or anyone who even looks different than the majority white America that some Trump supporters apparently seek to restore.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Political transitions and internationalization

Numerous and mostly foreboding predictions have been offered regarding international student enrollment in higher education in the U.S.A. under the Trump Presidency. Similar warnings have been issued in the U.K. as a result of Prime Minister May's commitment to activate the Brexit vote. In both these countries' cases, higher education has pushed back with their own initiatives to encourage their native students to study abroad and international students to join their campuses.

An analysis of longer term data in the U.S.A. documents that more conservative presidents (i.e. Republican) brought an overall increase in domestic student enrollment and a corresponding drop or stable proportion of international students (projected at 5.1% in 2017). During these conservative periods the number of U.S.A. students studying abroad increased (projected to be 130,000 or a total of 2%).

The article indicated that the implications of increased study abroad and flat or declining international student enrollment should be considered as higher education leaders allocate resources to support these and other internationalization initiatives.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Higher education in the U.S.A. launches "You are welcome here"

In a difficult period of social and political change, some international students may beginning to wonder if the U.S.A. is the best place for them to study. Mirroring a similar UK initiative, 'We are international,' higher education institutions in the U.S.A. have now launched 'You are welcome here' to reassure international students. Jessica Sandberg of Temple University commented, "I felt like it was important that US universities come together on this instead of competing, and send a unified message to let international students know that nothing has changed, that we welcome them, that university campus are progressive, open-minded, friendly places, and that we truly value that here."

With a message of 'You are welcome here' one might also ask what the U.S.A. and other countries are doing on their campuses and in their communities to make sure that the welcome is authentic.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mumbai University to explore education partnerships

The Vice Chancellor of Mumbai University announced that a world tour is planned to establish partnerships in other countries. Staring with the United States, Vice Chancellor Deshmukh commented, "We can partner with eminent Indians working abroad for degree courses. We may also hold joint degree programmes with existing universities or take over an existing university."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trying to understand "This Brave New World"

There's nothing subjective about it... Regardless of the widely held perception that Western countries sit atop the world's heap in regard to higher education, the future most likely is in Asia. By virtue of numbers alone, China and India now provide the greatest growth opportunities for those educators who want to be part of change and expansion. This Brave New World (book review by Joshua Kim) could be a helpful resource for those who want more background on what the dynamics are like in these two important countries.

Some educators may believe that we can pass on informing ourselves about China, India, and many other nations. However, it makes little difference that we may never set foot in these countries. If a significant future for our work will take place in, and will need to relate to, China and India, it's time we begin to inform ourselves.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Academic freedom questions in the Arabian Gulf states

With academic freedom as one of the major cornerstones of its learning community, any compromise of this value can be incendiary. After previously being barred from Abu Dhabi, a graduate student now enrolled in Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service sought to continue her research on migrant worker conditions in Qatar. However, Qatar immigration officials denied her visa when she tried to enter the country to conduct research.

Having personally experienced bureaucratic processes in the Gulf states, it is quite possible that the visa was denied simply to be consistent with other Gulf countries (the UAE in this case). It could be more significant and that's what becomes difficult - working through the bureaucracy to find someone courageous enough to take a stance that might draw public criticism. The more effective way of resolving issues like this is to stay calm and quiet and work behind the scenes to achieve resolution. Politicizing the issue and risking the potential of someone losing face is generally not the way to go.

Opposing Global Citizenship

Who could oppose higher education striving to develop global citizenship among its students? The two newly elected leaders of the countries that host the most international students of all the nations in the world - that's who!

While many universities around the world advocate and work toward preparing their graduates to be global citizens, there are powerful forces at play that oppose this move. Two specific forces sit in very high office - U.S.A. President-Elect Trump and U.K. Prime Minister May. Elizabeth Redden's essay "No certificate of global citizenship" identifies one of the shortcomings of those who resist the idea of global citizenship being the binary of the argument. In Trump's words from a recent Cincinnati, Ohio, rally, "There is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag." Or in May's pronouncement, "If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere; you don't understand what the very word 'citizenship' means."

The binary of "you are either a citizen of this nation or of the world" is a false dichotomy to which many of us in higher education have contributed by not defining our terms. The first way we have contributed is by not differentiating 'international' versus 'global.' Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Cross-Border Higher Education argues that the terms are different with 'international' education relating to deepening awareness, empathy, and respectful understanding of other nations and cultures where 'globalization' is about trade, economies, and the resulting political imbalances of our world. If you study their pronouncements, both Trump and May are talking about globalization as a trade and economic issue. Secondly, the dichotomy of national versus international is unnecessary and denies the reality of the world that is emerging in our shared life experience. Students needn't dedicate themselves to their own passport country (or country of residence) OR to the welfare of the broader world community we inhabit. Students' commitment and effectiveness in doing both should be the goal.

Redden's essay offers an important warning to those of us who value holistic student development and who seek to prepare students more adequately for the world in which they live. Heeding the warning and more carefully defining terms in ways that don't play into political agendas is critical to our effectiveness moving forward.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bridges to India and China

Following the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, a number of students and educators have tried to find ways to continue to draw academic talent to British institutions. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) recently released reports on Bridges to the Future, one focused on China and another on India. Politics needn't undermine capacity building and educational partnerships, especially when businesses and universities work together.

Developing True Global Citizens

The language of developing global citizens is often used when universities describe the purpose of their internationalization efforts. Jason Patent of UC Berkley offers some advice on how campuses can integrate an international perspective into students' learning without it becoming a threat that closes down curiosity and growing awareness.

The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE) convened its international partners for a conversation on 'Intercultural Education: Global Citizenship in Changing World Scenarios' to bring higher education and business representatives together to explore the value of cultivating global citizenship. A panel on industry and employment included comments by Pro Vice Chancellor at Regent's University London who said that "employability should be at the centre of any higher education institution's core strategy."