Cornell’s President Takes Stand Against Trump

On January 29th, Cornell’s interim president sent out an email outlining his plan to challenge President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders.

Interim President Hunter Rawlings of Cornell University sent out an email to the Cornell community in what appeared to be a direct response to President Trump’s recent executive action that temporarily bans the entry of citizens from seven nations.

Rawlings states that the executive order is “fundamentally antithetical” to his institution’s principles, while expressing Cornell’s commitment to provide various support services for those who might be affected by the Trump administration.

Rawlings is not all talk either, as he outlines his plan (see full letter below) for the Cornell Law School to begin providing legal assistance to those affected free of charge. Rawlings also seems to imply that the current administration’s actions have resulted in an increase of “bias related incidents” on campus, and encourages all members of the Cornell community to report these incidents through the Harassment, Discrimination and Bias Reporting System.

Below is a full transcript of President Rawlings’ letter to Cornell:

Dear Members of the Cornell Community,

President Donald Trump’s recent executive order imposing a 90-day ban on immigrant and nonimmigrant entry to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim nations is deeply troubling and has serious and chilling implications for a number of our students and scholars. It is fundamentally antithetical to Cornell University’s principles.

Ours is a diverse and global university. More than a fifth of our students are from countries outside the U.S. and our students and faculty are involved in programs and partnerships around the world. Over the last few days, we have been in regular contact with our community members who are directly impacted by the executive order, including students on our Ithaca campus; students, postdoctoral fellows, clinical trainees, and faculty at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City; and students at Weill Cornell Medicine in Qatar. We are offering to each our assistance and unwavering support. Cornell will not compromise its admissions and hiring standards of excellence and will continue to solicit, accept, and process applications from international students from around the world, including from the impacted countries.

We share the sentiments of many of our peer institutions who have voiced similarly strong concerns about the discriminatory nature of the executive order and the long-term damage it will have on our nation’s global leadership in research and education. The Association of American Universities (AAU), of which Cornell is a member, issued a statement yesterday, noting that the executive order “is already causing damage and should end as quickly as possible.” Cornell stands firmly with that statement, reaffirming our founding principle of “any person, any study.”

Our collective voices may already be having an impact. A Trump administration official earlier today appeared to reverse a key part of the executive order, stating that those from the affected countries who hold green cards will not be prevented from returning to the United States, and several federal judges across the country have blocked, at least temporarily, the implementation of some provisions of the executive order. Still, there is tremendous uncertainty around this policy and how it might be implemented.

As a community, we acknowledge the psychological toll this executive order has taken, most notably on those from the impacted countries and their family members and friends. Cornell offers a number of resources (listed below) that I encourage all students, faculty and staff to use as needed.

I also want to underscore the ongoing importance of demonstrating respect towards all community members inclusive of background, ethnicity, gender, religion, or political affiliation. There have been troubling reports of bias-related incidents on campus in the past few weeks. We thank members of the community who report incidents through the Harassment, Discrimination and Bias Reporting System. Reporting helps us to address these incidents swiftly.

In closing, I want to underscore these important commitments to the Cornell community, including those I made to you in statements late last year regarding the uncertainty around federal immigration policy:

  • Cornell will assist you if you are detained or prevented from re-entering the U.S. while traveling. See the specific resources and phone numbers listed below.
  • The university will continue to honor its commitments to all our current and future Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) undergraduate and graduate students. While it is still unclear how the DACA program will be impacted by Trump administration decisions, our commitments to these students remain firm.
  • The Cornell Law School will provide legal assistance to undocumented Cornell students who may wish to consult with a lawyer about the implications of the federal administration’s policies for their immigration status. These legal advisory services will be free of charge. We are exploring the extent to which law school faculty can offer legal assistance to students and scholars from all Cornell campuses detained while traveling or prevented from entering the country. [Emphasis added]
  • A dedicated team of law school faculty will also offer legal assistance in the form of representation for DACA students in potential deportation proceedings, should the need arise. There would be costs associated with this special legal representation service for DACA students, and a legal representative fund will be seeking contributions.
  • We will continue to protect the privacy of our student information and records from unauthorized or unlawful intrusion. The long-standing practice of the Cornell University Police Department (CUPD) has been not to seek immigration status information in the course of its law enforcement activities, unless related to criminal violations or threats of violent behavior. While Cornell representatives, including CUPD, will comply with lawfully issued subpoenas and warrants, it is neither the university’s practice nor expectation to function as an agent of the federal government regarding enforcement of federal immigration laws.

We have an obligation to assert our principles when policies and administrative decisions are contrary to those principles. Please join me in staying informed, engaged and intent on protecting the principles we hold dear.

Yours sincerely,

Hunter R. Rawlings III
Interim President

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