We, the members of the Geography Department at Dartmouth College condemn the US Executive Order, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” issued on January 27, 2017. This Order bars all refugees and visa holders from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States and signals that additional countries may be added to the list. We are concerned about what this means for individual members of the Dartmouth community – students, faculty, and staff – who are citizens of those countries as well as about the possible chilling effect this kind of Order will have for the intellectual life of Dartmouth’s campus and universities across the country.
As geographers, the free exchange of ideas and scholars across borders is fundamental to the success of our discipline. As a statement in opposition to the Executive Order by American Association of Geographers reads, “This executive order is contrary to the values we hold dear in geography, which is an inherently open and international discipline. Diversity and international interactions in the field of geography are essential to addressing global issues including security, peace, economic well-being, and health, as well as to achieving global understanding of our world and understanding in our world….It is critical that the United States continues to welcome geographers and others of all backgrounds and nationalities. This is not only just and ethical, but our nation’s ability to remain a global leader in innovation, science, research, and education depends on it.” We could not agree more.
This Executive Order directly impacts the ability of scholars to move across borders, dampens academic freedom, and discourages intellectual exchange. The challenges for our students are particularly significant. Many of them now face a deepened precarity regarding their futures, both here at Dartmouth and beyond graduation, some simply because of their faith in a particular religious tradition or their nation of origin. We reject any conflation of a religious faith with violence and terrorism. We pledge to support our students in any way possible, including opening up our offices and classrooms for discussions of the Order and its real and potential costs to students and our broader community. We anticipate difficult discussions about whether or not students can and should participate in study abroad programs, what this new Order means for the tenuous position of students from outside the US, how this will affect leave-term opportunities, and whether, where, and how some students and their family members can travel into and out of the United States. We call on Dartmouth to offer “know your rights” training sessions as well as information on digital security to all members of the community affected or potentially effected by the ban. We also encourage the College to make pro bono immigration law services available to all students, staff, and faculty who are affected and might be affected by the ban, and to make a concrete plan for protecting all members of the Dartmouth Community affected by this and possible future bans. Our College and its intellectual life depends on the free exchange of ideas and people. This Order challenges the integrity of Dartmouth and its stated goals for inclusivity, diversity, and equity. We object to it most strongly.