“I’m establishing a new vetting measure to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” Trump said when he signed the order. “We don’t want them here. We want to make sure we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas.”
The measure immediately drew strong reaction. Some welcomed the order as a much-needed way to strengthen national security and filter out extremists. But many others responded with alarm, protests and legal challenges, arguing that the ban was morally incompatible with American principles.
Christopher Eisgruber, the president of Princeton University, wrote the original draft of the letter with University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann and then asked others to sign on. The weight of the executive order felt personal, Eisgruber said.
It was personal in terms of his commitment to higher education, what it is and what it stands for, he explained. It was personal because of his research and experience as a scholar of religious liberties. And it was personal because of his own family history.
“My mother was a refugee from war-torn Europe,” he said. “If a refugee ban had been in place, she and her parents almost certainly would be killed.”
He said his father was an exchange student who emigrated from Germany five years after World War II. Had the United States treated his father as a likely enemy, Eisgruber said, he never would have been able to pursue his life here.
“When I see immigrants affected by this order, their story resonates with me, and how my family was treated,” he said by phone Thursday evening.
Princeton, like other universities, is trying to help its students and scholars affected by the order, Eisgruber said, as some are unable to re-enter the country to continue their studies or teach, and many more are worried about the future.
In the letter, the presidents wrote: “We recognize and respect the need to protect America’s security. The vetting procedures already in place are rigorous. Improvements to them should be based on evidence, calibrated to real risks, and consistent with constitutional principle.
“Throughout its history America has been a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom in the world. It has attracted talented people to our shores and inspired people around the globe. This executive order is dimming the lamp of liberty and staining the country’s reputation. We respectfully urge you to rectify the damage done by this order.”
Two spokesmen for the administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the letter on Thursday.
Read the letter in full here:
February 2, 2017President Donald J. TrumpThe White HouseUnited States of America
Dear President Trump:We write as presidents of leading American colleges and universities to urge you to rectify or rescind the recent executive order closing our country’s borders to immigrants and others from seven majority-Muslim countries and to refugees from throughout the world. If left in place, the order threatens both American higher education and the defining principles of our country.The order specifically prevents talented, law-abiding students and scholars from the affected regions from reaching our campuses. American higher education has benefited tremendously from this country’s long history of embracing immigrants from around the world. Their innovations and scholarship have enhanced American learning, added to our prosperity, and enriched our culture. Many who have returned to their own countries have taken with them the values that are the lifeblood of our democracy. America’s educational, scientific, economic, and artistic leadership depends upon our continued ability to attract the extraordinary people who for many generations have come to this country in search of freedom and a better life.This action unfairly targets seven predominantly Muslim countries in a manner inconsistent with America’s best principles and greatest traditions. We welcome outstanding Muslim students and scholars from the United States and abroad, including the many who come from the seven affected countries. Their vibrant contributions to our institutions and our country exemplify the value of the religious diversity that has been a hallmark of American freedom since this country’s founding. The American dream depends on continued fidelity to that value.We recognize and respect the need to protect America’s security. The vetting procedures already in place are rigorous. Improvements to them should be based on evidence, calibrated to real risks, and consistent with constitutional principle.Throughout its history America has been a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom in the world. It has attracted talented people to our shores and inspired people around the globe. This executive order is dimming the lamp of liberty and staining the country’s reputation. We respectfully urge you to rectify the damage done by this order.Sincerely,Robert L. BarchiPresidentRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Kimberly W. BenstonPresidentHaverford College
Joanne Berger-SweeneyPresidentTrinity College
George BlumenthalChancellorUniversity of California, Santa Cruz
Lee C. BollingerPresidentColumbia University
Richard H. BrodheadPresidentDuke University
Robert A. BrownPresidentBoston University
Kimberly Wright CassidyPresidentBryn Mawr College
Ronald J. DanielsPresidentJohns Hopkins University
John J. DeGioiaPresidentGeorgetown University
Nicholas B. DirksChancellorUniversity of California, Berkeley
Christopher L. EisgruberPresidentPrinceton University
Adam F. FalkPresidentWilliams College
Drew Gilpin FaustPresidentHarvard University
Patrick GallagherChancellorUniversity of Pittsburgh
Howard GillmanChancellorUniversity of California, Irvine
Amy GutmannPresidentUniversity of Pennsylvania
Andrew HamiltonPresidentNew York University
Philip J. HanlonPresidentDartmouth College
Sam Hawgood, MBBSChancellorUniversity of California, San Francisco
Ralph J. HexterInterim ChancellorUniversity of California, Davis
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.PresidentUniversity of Notre Dame
Pradeep K. KhoslaChancellorUniversity of California, San Diego
Marvin KrislovPresidentOberlin College
David W. LeebronPresidentRice University
Ron LiebowitzPresidentBrandeis University
Wallace D. LohPresidentUniversity of Maryland, College Park
Anthony P. MonacoPresidentTufts University
David OxtobyPresidentPomona College
Christina H. PaxsonPresidentBrown University
Daniel R. Porterfield, PhDPresidentFranklin & Marshall College
Carol QuillenPresidentDavidson College
Hunter R. Rawlings IIIInterim PresidentCornell University
Peter SaloveyPresidentYale University
Michael H. SchillPresidentUniversity of Oregon
Mark Schlissel M.D., PhDPresidentUniversity of Michigan
Valerie SmithPresidentSwarthmore College
Barbara R. SnyderPresidentCase Western Reserve University
Debora L. SparPresidentBarnard College
Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.PresidentStony Brook University
Sonya StephensActing PresidentMount Holyoke College
Claire E. SterkPresidentEmory University
Marc Tessier-LavignePresidentStanford University
Satish K. TripathiPresidentUniversity at Buffalo
Mark S. WrightonChancellorWashington University in St. Louis
Henry T. YangChancellorUniversity of California, Santa Barbara
Nicholas S. ZepposChancellorVanderbilt University