Editorial: Using education as a weapon of resistance

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On Jan. 27, newly inaugurated President Donald Trump signed an executive order restricting immigration and travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen. This move was instantly met with opposition from civil rights unions, lawyers, and the general public, and resulted in widespread protests across the United States. The constitutionality of this executive order has been challenged by legal experts, lawyers, and federal judges, and ultimately led to the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

This has led to confusion and chaos as the public reconsiders how the Trump administration will pursue goals that are contradictory to public opinion or common sense; currently, it seems to have taken a turn for the authoritarian. The unlawful injustice and shameful xenophobia displayed by this executive order are not to be doubted.

The impact of such an event on the generation of college students currently bearing witness to these government actions and subsequent public protests is something that cannot be taught in a textbook. Educators and students alike have the unique opportunity to take part in the discourse surrounding this watershed moment in history. It’s impossible to know right now whether this executive action will spur drastic and permanent action in either direction, but seizing these moments while they are in the forefront of people’s minds is crucial.

In a coordinated walk-out on Jan. 31, hundreds of University students gathered to protest the executive order amidst chants of “From Palestine to Mexico; all these walls have got to go,” and “No hate, no fear; refugees are welcome here.” Following the impassioned speeches from several students from immigrant backgrounds, eight “teach-ins” were held by more than 17 professors in empty classrooms across campus on topics ranging from “Fascism 101” to “Intersectional Feminism” to “Christianity in the Age of Trump,” among others.

The importance of the high attendance at these teach-ins cannot be underestimated; the will of students, faculty, and staff to abandon their preconceptions at the door about other people, religions, and phenomena is invaluable to the pursuit of gaining and spreading knowledge. The teach-ins took a moment of distress, confusion, and despair and turned it into something that anyone and everyone could learn from. The cliché “knowledge is power” rings true; arming ourselves with knowledge is what we can do as students in such an uncertain political time.

To its credit, the University has made significant efforts to address the distress felt by many students on campus, including multiple emails sent by University President John Bravman regarding the legal status of the executive order with respect to University students and the protection thereof, a vigil on Jan. 30 hosted by various constituencies under the umbrella of the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life, and the emphasis of resources such as the Intercultural Equity & Advocacy (IEA) Multipurpose Room, Women’s Resource Center, and Rooke Chapel for students to utilize as a support system.

Even before the executive order was signed, the University addressed the term “sanctuary campus” in an email sent by Bravman on Jan. 19. Many are under the false impression that the University being designated a “sanctuary campus” would have legitimate bearing and impact on University students whose immigration or citizenship status might be challenged by the Trump administration. This misconception paints the University in a undeservedly harsh light; the term “sanctuary campus” is more of a show of good faith than an actual guarantee in protecting its students.

Bravman’s email vows to protect University students to the fullest extent of their legal ability, unless a legitimate warrant or subpoena is issued. To ignore or underestimate this turbulent and threatening action taken by Trump would be to abandon its students; the University, and its students, faculty, and staff stepped up to the plate this time around.

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