Based on a national online chat I just participated in conducted by NAFSA: Association of International Educators (www.nafsa.org), it’s safe to say that fear and confusion dominates daily life for many of the one million international students studying in the U.S. And this is placing a great burden upon the student affairs staff, those international student advisors who are responsible for their welfare, since the election.
I’m leaving behind, for this one moment, the focus of my blog…I’ve been waiting to find the right “voice” after 11-8. This telephone chat may have uncorked my thinking.
There seems to be an effort by commentators in print and on TV, and among campus administrators, to try to calm things down by saying something like this: “We really cannot predict or know for sure, how Mr. Trump and his administration will act on those most outlandish statements he made during the primary season. That was then; it was rhetoric to gin up his “base.” But, now that he has won, we need to calm down and wait & see how his rhetoric will be changed by the reality of actually governing the nation.”
I must say that I’m not at all feeling calmer when thinking this way.
His first picks for senior cabinet posts include a man accused of being a racist for Attorney General; a military officer to run the NSA who spoke out using inflammatory language during the campaign and who was drummed out of the Pentagon for poor management; a fellow named Bannon who prides himself on being a “nationalist” (but not a radical white nationalist)…And so there you have it as of 11-18; 10 days after election day. Gosh, are we feeling better yet? And wait until his Supreme Court nominee tips the scale to over-turn Roe v. Wade. And what about the climate change denier whom he selected to head up EPA?
This is only the beginning –how will those 4,000 lower level federal appointees manage their offices? Change the focus of enforcement? Challenge policy norms of the past eight years?
How are families thinking of sending their sons and daughters to study here reacting to the new political culture they see emerging in the U.S.? What questions will be asked of students going abroad for study or internships?
Today, a column appeared in “Inside Higher Education,” stating that 110 college presidents issued a letter to Mr. Trump “urging him to speak out against harassment and hate.” Only 110? We have over 4,000 campuses in our 50 states! And only 110 leaders signed off on this letter?
We need to gear up to push back and fight against the intolerance which has been unleashed by Trump and his campaign surrogates. It seems to me to be spreading like an untreated infection on your skin. We cannot walk quietly into the darkness of this new political day. We cannot “normalize” what has been said by thinking somehow it will go away once the Trumpeters start governing and realize how complicated it is to run our government and conduct foreign affairs.
So I hope thousands of college and university presidents find the courage of their convictions and speak out. I hope we hear the voices of international students who are fearful, who are being harassed or made to feel unwelcome. We need our local campus communities to step up to show their support through the coming holidays: I hope families invite international students into their homes for Thanksgiving or in other ways reach out to students to comfort them when they are missing their own families.
I want to feel that in these coming days and months, we will be reassured that our new political leaders will not rule by instinct alone , change laws and regulations in a display of vengeful unchecked power, or showcase support for world leaders who themselves suppress dissent and violate human rights in their own country.
But, I am worried. I listened for a year. We know what has been said- and promised…