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President’s comments at Faculty Senate meeting of Feb. 9, 2017

Categories: Faculty Senate remarks, Speeches & Writings

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne made the following comments at the Faculty Senate meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017.

Thank you. I’ll be providing an update in a little bit on long-range planning. But I want to address one other issue first; that is our ongoing work to support our international and immigrant communities in the wake of the federal administration’s executive order.

As you know, the legal battle is continuing over the fate of the executive order, and there have been a series of fast-moving events in the federal courts in recent days.

Even though the executive order has been temporarily suspended, this continues to be an anxious and distressing time for many people in our community.

I want to convey three things. First is my appreciation for how the Stanford community has responded; second, the steps the university leadership has taken to respond; and also, the additional steps we have under way right now to support our community.

So first, I want to thank everyone who has been involved, in multiple ways, since the executive order was issued ‚Äď which was, as you’ll recall, just one day after our last Faculty Senate meeting.

My thanks go to the people across our campus who have been working literally 24/7 to support the members of our international community.

It also includes everyone who has expressed concern or made constructive suggestions about the university’s response.

And it includes our students who have stepped up to support each other and to vocally express their views.

I have been personally struck by the courage of two of our students, one from Sudan and one from Yemen, who have publicly shared their personal experiences with the travel ban.

And it was also heartening to see a full house, mostly of students, at Memorial Church earlier this week to listen to the words of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she discussed the rule of law ‚Äď and the characteristics of a meaningful life.

It was another constructive and affirming moment during this period.

The engagement of our campus community really indicates our care for other members of this community, and for our mission and values as a university. I want to thank everyone for that.

Second, I’ll quickly recap how we have responded as a university leadership ‚Äď to what have been quickly moving events, in an environment of uncertainty and federal policy chaos that quite frankly I cannot recall from any other time in the recent past.

Persis, John Etchemendy and I wrote a statement at the beginning of last week, and I will quote the opening:

“As an academic institution and as a community, Stanford welcomes and embraces students and scholars from around the world who contribute immeasurably to our mission of education and discovery. Inclusion and nondiscrimination are core values of our community, and they extend to people from around the world regardless of citizenship or nationality. We recognize that those who set national immigration policy must account for national security considerations to keep our country safe. But policies that restrict the broad flow of people and ideas across national borders, or that have the effect or appearance of excluding people based on religion or ethnicity, are deeply antithetical to both our mission and our values.”

In that statement, we also restated Stanford’s commitment to undocumented students.

Let me be clear: We intend to do everything in our power to protect and support our students, faculty and staff, including those who are undocumented. They are equal members of our community.

Last week I also joined 47 other college and university presidents in a letter to President Trump regarding the executive order. That letter read in part:

“We write as presidents of leading American colleges and universities to urge you to rectify or rescind the recent executive order closing our country‚Äôs 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 letter continued:

“This executive order is dimming the lamp of liberty and staining the country‚Äôs reputation. We respectfully urge you to rectify the damage done by this order.”

So while it remains to be seen what the ultimate fate of the executive order is, the university has been engaged in around-the-clock efforts to provide support and assistance to our international community.

Those efforts are continuing and expanding, and that is my third and final point.

To summarize some of the major work that has been under way:

  • We have direct and ongoing outreach to members of our community from the seven countries, and we’ve had that ever since the draft of the executive order first became public;
  • We’re providing information and support through the Bechtel International Center, which is working with Stanford Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic to connect individual students and scholars with immigration attorneys for advice and counsel;
  • The Stanford Law School held initial informational sessions last week for those trying to understand and navigate the executive order;
  • We’re expanding on that now with information sessions that will be offered every Friday afternoon at the Bechtel International Center;
  • CAPS, Bechtel, and the Markaz, our Muslim community center, are collaborating on expanded emotional and mental health support services;
  • We’ve created a centralized website, linked from the Stanford home page, offering information on how people can get help with their questions and concerns, and we will be using this website for ongoing updates to the campus community;
  • And finally, we have a work team actively meeting to identify emerging needs and questions so that we can further enhance our support for our community.

Our goal is to mindfully and assertively support our mission and values, which means supporting the members of our community and the international academic community.

We hope to do so in a way that is responsive rather than reactive ‚Äď given the constantly changing and often conflicting information ‚Äď and in a way that ultimately helps the people in our community most affected by these issues.

I greatly appreciate the work of everyone who is contributing to this effort.

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