After President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, universities, including Hopkins, have condemned the order.
Hopkins, along with sixteen other universities, filed an amicus brief on Monday in a Brooklyn federal court out of concern for the ban’s effect on their students and the international academic community.
To protest the ban and show solidarity with those affected, members of the Hopkins community gathered on the Beach and the Medical Campus.
The demonstration was one of several nationwide protests under the name “Academics United,” which took place simultaneously on Friday.
Junior Darius Mostaghimi, an event organizer, explained the ban’s far-reaching impact on college campuses. He stressed that those affected by the ban could be friends, fellow researchers, teachers, or family.
“It’s called Academics United because we are working with other universities around the country to raise awareness and to not let this issue die down from the public discourse,” he said.
Another one of the organizers, Shiva Razavi, a graduate student, added that the purpose was to also encourage productive, meaningful discussion within the Hopkins community about the ban’s consequences.
“It’s beyond awareness; We want to have a fruitful conversation about it. We have speakers who are going to look at this immigration ban from different angles, from how it’s affecting the refugees, how it’s affecting doing research with other countries,” she said.
Graduate student Ding Xuan Ng, who helped to organize the event, elaborated on how the ban affected researchers who are stranded abroad.
“I know a few graduate students on campus who have been affected in that they’re stuck in their countries after going back for what they thought was just a break, and it’s a disruption that not only affects their work, but their funding might be suspended,” he said.
A written statement from University Provost Sunil Kumar, who was unable to attend the event, echoed Ng. The statement was read aloud by vice provost for research Denis Wirtz, a Belgian immigrant.
“President Trump’s executive order has very real consequences for students, researchers and staff members across our University. Some have been forced to separate from their families, others have been prevented from fulfilling their obligations abroad, and many of our international patients fear they will not be able to receive the medical care that they need,” Wirtz read. “The PhD student I advise cannot go home today to visit his family or present his work at an international conference without risking his studies. So how can we function best as a University in such circumstances?”
Susan Goering, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, also spoke at the rally to offer a legal perspective on the executive order.
Goering also outlined the lawsuit that the ACLU has filed in response to the executive order that has been gaining national attention. She encouraged attendees to continue their activism.
“What you are doing today, the protesting, the marching, is all extremely important for two reasons: One, it helps us keep our spirits up, because we’re all doing this together, and the second important reason is the little known fact that I think is true, that judges read the newspaper. So please keep doing what you’re doing,” she said.
Speakers praised University President Ronald J. Daniels’ statement on the executive order but also called on Hopkins to strengthen its stance as a sanctuary campus.
Hent de Vries, a philosophy professor and the director of the Humanities Center, emphasized this concern, going on to say more action may be needed in order to help those affected.
“[Daniels’ and Kumar’s] personal and collective statements have been strong and unambiguous,” he said. “But they may need more than our moral support and approval. They also may need to strategically and tactically let us use the concept [of a sanctuary campus].”
Derek Schilling, a professor in the German and Romance Languages and Literatures (GRLL) department and the president of the Hopkins chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), was another one of the speakers at the rally. Schilling pushed the University administration to enact more concrete measures to protect those affected.
“We now encourage [administrative leaders] to take the next step to devise a concrete, multi-faceted contingency plan that can ensure for the needs of those persons directly affected in our campus, in our partner institutions, such that each basic material and administrative need for those to live and study and work with dignity be met,” he said.
The students who participated found the event galvanizing and effective for showing solidarity with the community.
“I think it’s important for students and the community in general to organize,” junior Aurel Malapani said. “I noticed that here on campus, there’s a lot of political apathy and a lack of political organization, and I think that this is a good opportunity as well to organize on campus and become more politically active and radicalize the student population a little bit.”
However, junior John Hughes feels that the format of the rally could have been more effective.
“They had a lot of speakers there who were knowledgeable and passionate about the subject and really rallied people,” he said. “But I do wish that it had been translated into some sort of action. I think that there was a lot of potential that was maybe wasted by having everyone sort of standing in one spot and listening.”
Overall, Mostaghimi felt that the rally was successful.
“There’s further action that’s being planned with [Students for a Democratic Society] and other groups,” he said. “I think that we made a good statement and I think that’s really what we planned for.”
Event organizer Matthias Lalisse, a graduate student in the Cognitive Science department, maintained that there is still more work to be done.
“Hopkins needs to take a stronger stance acting as a sanctuary for members of the community who are affected by these continuing attacks on their rights and on their humanity,” he said. “That holds for the University’s fairly toned down response to the immigration ban and their unwillingness to speak out strongly against it.”