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.

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