On February 28, Teresa Sullivan sent out another response email to students and faculty at the University to the ongoing attack on those of Arab descent. As I wrote about her previous statement, I figured it only fitting that I delve back into the fray.
Upon first glance, this statement seems to be much more conciliatory to affected students than before. Sullivan lists the complaints that her office has received about the Executive Order. And stops there. She encourages students affected by the Order to reach out to the ISO and HR services here at the University for consultation and advice. A timeline is presented to students that includes a number of responses from organizations that Sullivan is a member of.
The Association of American Universities, of which Sullivan is on the Board of Directors, issued a statement on January 28 decrying the exclusion of “the most talented individuals from all countries.” Sullivan is the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities, whose statement recognized the impacts of the Executive Order “reverberate far beyond the higher education community and are worthy of everyone’s attention”, but chooses to focus on those who go to University and are affected. The letter from the American Council on Education, which Sullivan signed, asked for the repeal of the Order on the grounds that the “talented people from around the world” would no longer contribute to the “economic growth” of the United States if they were excluded from it.
As is evident, each of these signed letters makes talent and economic possibility the measures of worth for immigrants and refugees. Merit based institutions like Colleges and Universities should, of course, focus on the merit of those they admit. Their letters about the Order, with their focus on talent and economic growth, are not surprising but are still disappointing. The infatuation with students as students only, at the expense of their humanity, is what struck me the hardest by all of these statements.
Students are more than bank accounts to be emptied into the coffers of Institutionalized Education. Given that international students are required to shell out additional funds to attend American universities compared to domestic students, universities would be justified in an upset over the loss in income.
Universities must not forget about the humanity of their students. Many seem to have done so already, but thankfully there are bastions of emotion in the increasingly factory system that is the modern American university institution. I mentioned the University of Michigan in my last article and I stand behind my assertion that their president’s reaction was infinitesimally better than any of the others I have read since.
The view of students as humans who are emotionally impacted by degrading Executive Orders is sadly revolutionary in the world of higher education. I am upset to say that this seems to be the case at the University of Virginia as well. Sullivan’s most recent statement mentioned at the beginning of this article began with a tone implying the defense of those affected, but ending with a harsh reneging of that tone. When Sullivan included the fact that many students who were affected by the Department of Homeland Security’s new memoranda in multitudinous ways, I believed that her message this time around would be more supportive of the students at our University.
I was very sadly disappointed.
Her concluding sentence speaks for itself:
To the members of our UVA family who are experiencing concern and fear in these uncertain times, our pledge and our assurance is that we stand with you, we support you, and we will do everything in our power to keep you fully informed.
If your family felt upset and threatened, what would you do? Would you keep them informed on how the government was trying to oppress them, or would you stand up for them when their oppressors came? Stronger language and support for students at our University was my point of contention from Sullivan’s last message to the community, and I am disappointed to say that it has not improved. Our students are more than bank accounts. Stand up for their humanity, or reconsider before calling them family.
Sam Nicol is a second-year who professionally plays the stomach drums.