SFUFA President’s Message – US Travel Ban

By now you’ve likely heard about the US travel ban issued last Friday by President Trump. Loosely summarized, the executive order restricts entry to the United States for citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries and impacts many students, staff, and faculty within our community.

Reaction against the order has been swift, both on the political and legal fronts, with spontaneous demonstrations arising across the United States and multiple court orders restricting implementation of the order. That said, the situation is fluid and likely to impact the SFU community in the coming months (at a minimum). There is very little clarity about which citizens from the named countries can travel to the United States, with even legal residence holders being denied entry in some cases. As a result, CAUT now recommends that members who may be affected by the ban defer their travel plans.

Reaction across Canada to the ban has similarly been swift and wide ranging. I’d like to thank President Petter for quickly issuing a statement demonstrating support for SFU students, staff, and faculty affected by the ban. CAUT has condemned the action as discriminatory and Universities Canada has taken the unusual step of speaking out, noting the negative impact on “research partnerships, international studies, academic conference participation, field visits and in some cases family relationships.”

The US academic community has been particularly vocal, with the AAUP calling the order “unconstitutional and discriminatory” and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities noting that the “consequences of this action, along with the ban on refugees, reverberate far beyond the higher education community and are worthy of everyone’s attention” (see resources below).

This ban, and any unreasonable restriction on mobility, has serious implications for our work as faculty, the principles that underlie our institutions, and our commitment to scholarship and dialogue. This travel ban will touch individual lives and careers in ways that may range from family separation to conference participation and other faculty work, and, by extension, bi-annual reviews and the tenure and promotion processes. As a collegial organization we have the power to support our colleagues and highlight the continuing importance of academic freedom, including the freedom to meet with peers and share academic work without restriction or fear of discrimination. I hope you’ll join me in supporting all faculty, staff, and students affected by the ban, both in the short term—as travel plans are adjusted and research agendas revised—and in the long term as the impact of these measures become more clear.

SFUFA is consulting with the SFU Administration and we plan to work closely with them in response to the situation as it develops. If you have any need of assistance in relation to these restrictions and their impact on you or any member of our community, please feel free to reach out to me or any other officer or staff member of SFUFA.

The SFU Faculty Association is committed to the defense and expansion of human rights and diversity, to the safety and security of our members and their communities, to the free movement of people and ideas, and to a university, a country, and an international community free of bigotry and intolerance.

We also note our sadness in response to yesterday’s murders in Quebec, and our distress at the violence and racism that seems now emboldened within the public sphere. We send our condolences to the community of worshippers, friends and loved ones, and our support to all those whose rights and safety are threatened.

Dan Laitsch