Princeton University

The presidents of nearly 50 universities, including all of the Ivy League, called on President Trump on Thursday to “rectify or rescind” an executive order on immigration that they warned could keep top scholars away from their campuses.

Last week, Trump signed an executive order establishing a temporary ban on allowing people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to enter the United States, and a temporary suspension on allowing refugees to enter the country.

“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.


President Donald Trump signs an executive order on extreme vetting at the Pentagon on Jan. 27. (Susan Walsh/AP)

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, 2017

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

United 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. Barchi

President

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

Kimberly W. Benston

President

Haverford College

 

Joanne Berger-Sweeney

President

Trinity College

 

George Blumenthal

Chancellor

University of California, Santa Cruz

 

Lee C. Bollinger

President

Columbia University

 

Richard H. Brodhead

President

Duke University

 

Robert A. Brown

President

Boston University

 

Kimberly Wright Cassidy

President

Bryn Mawr College

 

Ronald J. Daniels

President

Johns Hopkins University

 

John J. DeGioia

President

Georgetown University

 

Nicholas B. Dirks

Chancellor

University of California, Berkeley

 

Christopher L. Eisgruber

President

Princeton University

 

Adam F. Falk

President

Williams College

 

Drew Gilpin Faust

President

Harvard University

 

Patrick Gallagher

Chancellor

University of Pittsburgh

 

Howard Gillman

Chancellor

University of California, Irvine

 

Amy Gutmann

President

University of Pennsylvania

 

Andrew Hamilton

President

New York University

 

Philip J. Hanlon

President

Dartmouth College

 

Sam Hawgood, MBBS

Chancellor

University of California, San Francisco

 

Ralph J. Hexter

Interim Chancellor

University of California, Davis

 

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

President

University of Notre Dame

 

Pradeep K. Khosla

Chancellor

University of California, San Diego

 

Marvin Krislov

President

Oberlin College

 

David W. Leebron

President

Rice University

 

Ron Liebowitz

President

Brandeis University

 

Wallace D. Loh

President

University of Maryland, College Park

 

Anthony P. Monaco

President

Tufts University

 

David Oxtoby

President

Pomona College

 

Christina H. Paxson

President

Brown University

 

Daniel R. Porterfield, PhD

President

Franklin & Marshall College

 

Carol Quillen

President

Davidson College

 

Hunter R. Rawlings III

Interim President

Cornell University

 

Clayton Rose

President

Bowdoin College

 

Peter Salovey

President

Yale University

 

Michael H. Schill

President

University of Oregon

 

Mark Schlissel M.D., PhD

President

University of Michigan

 

Valerie Smith

President

Swarthmore College

 

Barbara R. Snyder

President

Case Western Reserve University

 

Debora L. Spar

President

Barnard College

 

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.

President

Stony Brook University

 

Sonya Stephens

Acting President

Mount Holyoke College

 

Claire E. Sterk

President

Emory University

 

Marc Tessier-Lavigne

President

Stanford University

 

Satish K. Tripathi

President

University at Buffalo

 

Mark S. Wrighton

Chancellor

Washington University in St. Louis

 

Henry T. Yang

Chancellor

University of California, Santa Barbara

 

Nicholas S. Zeppos

Chancellor

Vanderbilt University