On Friday afternoon, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order blocking entry into the United States for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen even if they carried green cards according to The New York Times. On Saturday, Stony Brook Graduate Student Organization President Vahideh Rasekhi was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens according to the Three Village Patch. Rasekhi was scheduled to be deported on a flight to Istanbul at 11:40 p.m., according to BBC Persian journalist Bahman Kalbasi. She was pulled from the flight after a federal judge issued a stay against the executive order according to a report by the New York Daily News. Rasekhi was released from detention at JFK Sunday afternoon.
Two days after the executive order and about 15 hours after Rasekhi was pulled off the plane, the Stony Brook President’s Office finally sent an email to the campus community about their support for diversity. In late November, Stony Brook President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said, “In a world that seems to be retreating in ideals more than ever, it is important that Stony Brook University stands — stands for what is right.”
The Undergraduate Student Government and GSO both issued statements about Rasekhi and the travel ban last night. USG President Cole Lee signed an executive order to create a director of Diversity Affairs position within USG to “develop, implement, coordinate, collaborate, recommend, and monitor programs that promote diversity within USG and Stony Brook University as a whole.” In his post about the executive order, Lee asked fellow students to take action by joining the USG Office of Diversity Affairs and standing up against intolerance throughout the country. Regarding Rasekhi he wrote, “We will work tirelessly to continue to drive out hate with love. It is my hope that the moment you are allowed your rightful re-entry to continue your education and your service to our University.”
GSO posted on Facebook, “The President’s Executive Order does nothing but discriminate, and deprive the rights of our friends, colleagues and students of this univeristy [sic] and across the nation. We stand by Vahideh, our President, in her right to stay in this country and continue her education.”
And while students rushed to protest the ban in Battery Park, Stony Brook administration, dean of students and Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity dragged their feet in sending any kind of response to students.
This morning, Sacha Kopp, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, sent an email to faculty stating that, “Provost Bernstein and President Stanley are engaged in this issue and are working with a SUNY immigration attorney on our student’s behalf,” and asking staff to “Please convey to your faculty and students that the university is very much cognizant and engaged on this issue and will have a response and more information by Monday.”
This afternoon, more than 15 hours after Rasekhi’s detention, President Stanley sent an email advising students to contact the Stony Brook University Visa and Immigration Services Office, located in room E5310 on the fifth floor of Melville Library, with any issues or questions about the executive order. Students can also email [email protected] and include their name, student ID and contact information with questions. The Stony Brook Visa and Immigration Services should be posting updates to their Facebook page.
Meanwhile, the University of Michigan issued a statement about protecting the interest of international students. Princeton, Stanford and Chapman Universities sent emails to international students advising them to return to the United States and to stay until legal ramifications of the executive order are made clear.
In an action that is surprisingly constructive, Stony Brook will host an information session with legal experts from New York law firm Barst, Mukamal and Kleiner during Campus Life Time this Wednesday, in the Wang Center Theatre.
While it took longer than it should have, Stony Brook did the right thing sending an email to students before classes started this week. To show real support toward diversity and minorities on campus, to truly establish itself as a sanctuary campus and to signal serious commitment to American values, Stony Brook University should issue a public statement, not just a campuswide email, as a SUNY campus about the travel ban.