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

When a Republican Politician Comes to Cornell

See the video above of one chant that caused one of the many interruptions throughout his speech. “Shame,” is being yelled in this chant, the most common insult heard during the evening.

When he mentioned the word the Constitution, someone yelled “Genocide.”

When he talked about the economy, students yelled “Slavery.”

After he asked the audience to respectfully listen to his speech—he would have a Q&A later where they could express their disagreement—he was met with a roar of laughter.

UPenn President Won’t Comply with Federal Immigration Laws

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Image via Philly.com

In her email sent on Wednesday, November 30th, University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann vows to not allow federal immigration authorities on campus except by warrant.

Around noon on Wednesday, November 30th, 2016, our undergraduate contributors at the University of Pennsylvania received an email from their president, Amy Gutmann. In the letter entitled “A Message to the Penn Community Concerning Our DACA and Undocumented Community Members,” the president outlines her plan intended to shield illegal students from federal immigration authorities.

The Ivy League university president promises to fulfill a number of goals, such as not allowing federal immigration authorities on campus (except by warrant), and continuing to provide financial aid to  and special advisors to serve these students’ specific needs.

See the full email below.

November 30, 2016

A Message to the Penn Community Concerning Our DACA and Undocumented Community Members

We write in response to the several inquiries and petitions that we have received regarding the University’s support for our Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and undocumented students.  We are grateful that so many members of the Penn community have spoken out and communicated their support for our undocumented students. 

Let us be unequivocally clear: We are and remain resolute in our commitment to Penn’s undocumented students, and will do all that we can to ensure their continued safety and success here at Penn. 

As President Gutmann, who has long advocated for immigration reform, wrote in her recent letter to faculty colleagues, undocumented students “have grown up in our communities; they attended our schools; and they have both the strong desire and the impressive capacity to make vital contributions to our nation’s future economic strength and global competitiveness.”  At Penn, we are a richer campus for our inclusion and diversity, and our community benefits greatly from the presence of its undergraduate, graduate, and professional undocumented students. 

We welcome this opportunity to reinforce our support for the undocumented student community, including the following:

The University of Pennsylvania will not allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)/Customs and Border Protection (CBP)/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on our campus unless required by warrant.  Further, the University will not share any information about any undocumented student with these agencies unless presented with valid legal process.  We also endorse the City of Philadelphia’s Fourth Amendment practice that blocks City and campus police from complying with ICE detainer requests for nonviolent offenses.  Penn is and has always been a “sanctuary” – a safe place for our students to live and to learn.  We assure you that we will continue in all of our efforts to protect and support our community including our undocumented students. 

The University of Pennsylvania commits to ensuring current undocumented and DACA recipients will continue to receive financial aid, fellowship stipends, as well as any related support that is currently being provided, or that will be needed, for these students to complete their studies at Penn. We will continue to provide need-based Penn grant aid to undocumented students who apply as international students. As always, Student Financial Services (SFS) stands ready to assist any student who is experiencing a family financial crisis or a change of circumstance. Undocumented students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status will continue to be eligible for work-study positions. SFS will continue to assist those without DACA to find other forms of aid to replace work-study. The Student Intervention Services (SIS) team will also continue to support undocumented students in emergent circumstances.

The University of Pennsylvania already has a number of permanent staff who serve as advisors to support the specific needs of undocumented and DACA students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. These advisors are familiar with the specific challenges of undocumented and DACA students; provide additional wellness support and student referrals to resources with a deeper understanding of their unique needs; act as liaisons between offices on the University’s campus such as SFS or the Registrar; and keep up to date with national policies regarding immigration that affect students such as DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA).  These advisors are located in Penn Global, the Greenfield Intercultural Center, La Casa Latina and other offices.

The University of Pennsylvania will continue to advocate passionately for comprehensive immigration reform.  As Penn’s President and as a past president of the Association of American Universities, Amy Gutmann has repeatedly communicated to our nation’s leaders her support for undocumented students, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, and the continuation and expansion of DACA.  The University will continue to forcefully speak out in support of these critical issues. 

We recognize that many in our community remain anxious about the future.  United, we will do everything in our power to ensure the continued security and success of our undocumented students.  It is times such as these when we must hold even closer our cherished Penn values of inclusion, diversity, equity and mutual respect. 

With deep respect and warm regards,

Amy Gutmann, President
Vincent Price, Provost
Craig R. Carnaroli, Executive Vice President

Young People: The National Debt Is Our Burden

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Image via NPR.org

The U.S. debt burden may be a small issue to the politicians of today, but it will become a grave problem to future generations of taxpayers (us, the millennials).

By now, most of us have heard about the problem that is the growing size of the U.S. national debt. The debate about whether or not to raise the debt ceiling—that is, how much the government is legally allowed to borrow to finance its expenditures—will resurface in the national spotlight early next year as Congress revisits the issue.

Seemingly any politician, pundit or economist will agree that the current level of national debt is unacceptable, and that its growth must be slowed down before it wreaks havoc over the economy. But so far, these claims have proven toothless as no concrete measures have been taken to lessen the debt burden by lowering expenses or raising taxes.

As a result of our government’s inaction, the U.S. debt burden currently stands at 104% of the GDP, or over $19 trillion dollars. And it’s growing fast too, as the graph below illustrates.

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Timothy Taylor via Conversable Economist

But why should we be alarmed by our large level of public debt?

First, it is helpful to gain some historical perspective. The U.S. total debt-to-GDP ratio has not been over the 100% mark since the country mobilized to fight in World War II. The economic boom that followed, combined with appropriate taxation, allowed for the government to collect revenues to pay off the debt burdens from victoriously fighting the wars spanning from Europe to the Pacific.

Seven decades ago, the federal government led the way in defeating the Nazi and Japanese empires, all the while donating generously to rebuild the post-war Europe, cementing U.S. global leadership that lasts to this day.

As we are fast approaching to break the record set 70 years ago, it is only natural to ask: to what do we owe the outsized debt burden of today?

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Image via Nationalpriorities.org

As the graph above illustrates, in 2015 more than 60% of the federal budget was dedicated to government-sponsored welfare programs, spanning from healthcare to keeping people above the poverty line. It would be difficult to argue that these expenditures are without noble goals; however, despite the admirable intentions of these programs, it is important to understand how they get paid for.

As the late economist Milton Friedman said: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

The majority of the welfare programs, which benefit those above the age of 50, are owed to every administration since the 1960s outbidding the former with promises of increasing government-provided welfare programs. It has been a politically advantageous tactic—used by Democrats and Republicans alike—to gain votes from the beneficiaries of these programs. As Chancellor of Germany Otto von Bismarck remarked in the 1880s: “A man who has a pension for his old age is much easier to deal with than a man without that prospect.”

There is no issue with spending programs as long as the people benefitting from them are also paying their dues, which would be in the form of taxation. However, much of the welfare is not financed through taxpayer revenue, but rather through taking on loans from individuals and foreign governments.

In the plainest terms, this means that the elected officials are choosing not to make the current taxpayers pay for the programs, but rather pass on the payments to the following generations (plus interest, which stands at over $200 billion as of 2015).

This is why the debt burden should matter to young people. Our former and current elected government officials have promised generous welfare programs to their voters—with the promise that a future generation will pay for it. Today, the debt per capita is approximately $59,000—and growing fast. No other generation of taxpayers has been expected to pay down this much debt since the 1950s.

The task wouldn’t be as daunting if the nation enjoyed the same economic prosperity it did in the post-World War II period.

When the economy is growing fast and GDP per capita is rising, enacting higher taxes to pay down the debt is not as difficult to swallow. However, the economy is not expected to grow at the remarkable speed it did generations ago when there were virtually no foreign competitors to challenge our domestic industries, allowing for the U.S. reign as the world’s sole economic superpower. The gloomy reality of the present economic landscape, combined with the fact our debt is expected only to rise as the baby-boomer generation requires more healthcare and social security expenditures, means that young people of today will be paying much of their future income in taxes.

Taxes are necessary, but are they acceptable when paid only to cover the expenses of previous generations? Considering that the individuals and foreign governments who own U.S. debt will be expecting their money back eventually, our generation will lack the luxury of raising the debt ceiling and simply passing the costs to our children and grandchildren. We will have to pay the trillions of dollars—earned through our future labor—to pay for the expenditures our politicians promised generations ago to past generations of voters.

Come March 2017, when Congress debates whether to raise the debt ceiling, remember that since it will not be their problem, they will probably vote to raise it. Because it will be ours.

Reminder: Why the Economy Matters

During this election cycle, it has become clear that Americans are more divided than at any other time in recent memory. Those who identify as Democrats are moving increasingly further to the left, as demonstrated by the unprecedented rise of a self-described socialist in the Democratic Party primaries. The Republicans are growing divided among themselves, as evidenced by the selection of an anti-free trade candidate to represent the party in the presidential election.

In this time of wildly competing views on social and economic ideas, it is vital for the citizens of our democracy to find common ground, especially because such ground does exist.

Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, support deportation of illegal immigrants or believe in amnesty, deny or accept the perils of global warming, everyone can agree on one thing: the quality of life enjoyed by the electorate matters, arguably far more than any other measure.

For example, if you live in a country with a poor quality of life for the general population, odds are that you will not be as concerned about other issues. When you and your neighbors live in abject poverty with an unstable government, you will probably not be too concerned with animal rights or global warming—not because you do not care about animals or the health of the planet, but because you have more immediate problems to worry about (such as your own health and well-being).

The most important factor for increasing the quality of life for a population is to improve the economic health of the country. As the graph by the OECD Better Life Index illustrates, the general quality of life (measured as a Better Life Index score from 0-9.00) correlates closely with the GDP per capita (how much the economic output of the nation is per one person).

Source: OECD Better Life Index

Although there are a handful of other factors that contribute to the general quality of life score, the evidence based on similar studies speaks for itself: to improve the well being (or quality of life), of the citizens in a country, its leaders must first enact policies that drive economic growth.

Other important metrics that are related to the quality of life mirror the graph above, such as life expectancy.

As the graph above shows, the GDP per capita correlates closely with the life expectancy among U.S. citizens. In an era of declining economic growth, it is a great concern that if economic productivity is to tumble, then so will our own life expectancies.

When both of the major party candidates for President are either competing as to who can be tougher on the financial services industry, or individually support tax increases and new barriers to free trade, the voter should be informed of the economic consequences of such policies.

These policies are not just abstract matters that only have an effect on other people, but may have detrimental, long-lasting consequences on everyone’s lives, and most certainly on yours.

August 27: Five in a Flash

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