Dear President Genshaft:
On behalf of over 2,000 graduate employees at the University of South Florida, we are asking you to state your commitment to the international students, employees, and faculty who serve a vital role to the University of South Florida.
Last Friday, President Trump issued an executive order targeted against Muslim immigrants from several Middle Eastern countries. This executive order not only harms those seeking refuge from war-torn areas, but also puts at risk legal permanent residents who have possessed green cards for years.
This action also threatens the safety and livelihood for some of our university’s employees and students. An executive order that undermines the pursuit of knowledge is a threat to the very purpose of our university. A threat against one part of the USF community is a threat against all of us—and we will not tolerate any action that targets members of our community for their faith, race, resident status, or nation of origin. This executive order harms our students and employees now, and it harms the type of innovation possible at USF in the future.
While the letters that you and Provost Wilcox sent out seem like a noteworthy start, there is much more to be hoped for in your responses. These two messages made vague statements about wishing for USF to be a safe and inclusive space, but there is much more that needs to be done. One strong step would be to directly and publicly condemn President Trump’s immigration ban specifically as well as his immigration stance more generally due to its divisive nature that strikes at America’s most positive core values. As significant would be to make tangible actions that support the entire university community. You would do well to research and make note of the actions other universities are making around the state and around the country. MIT’s administration, for example, has helped organize rallies with its students, faculty, and staff, and they have also reached out with advice to its students known to be travelling abroad at the moment – whether for personal reasons or reasons related to their scholarly pursuits. These are just a few direct actions that can truly help create a university environment based on inclusivity, safety, and equality.
President Genshaft, we want you to make a clear commitment to the safety and well-being of the USF community’s international members. We are asking you to assure students and employees from countries listed in last week’s executive order that USF will not release information that compromises their ability to continue residing in the United States. We are asking you to offer resources and referral services for those students and employees whose residency status is now imperiled. We are asking you to personally guarantee that departments are contacting and making concrete plans with international students abroad who are unable to return to the United States to make progress in their programs. And we are asking you to assert that USF is not, and will never be, a university that accepts discriminatory or defamatory behavior toward any student or employee on the basis of faith, race, residency status, or national origin.
We at Graduate Assistants United condemn President Trump’s executive order and stand strong with our brothers and sisters from Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Somalia, all other Muslim majority countries, and the peoples of any nation or group that the Trump Administration may single out in the future. We hope you will, too.
USF Graduate Assistants United
Neal Fischer, President
Suzanne Young, Grievance Chair
Ann Vitous, Communication Chair
Constanza de Dios, Secretary
Jacob Abraham, Bargaining Chair
Jon Hendricks, Organizing Chair
Erin Sauer, Treasurer
Marcy Cockrell, USF St Pete Representative
Bryan Delius, Senator
Megan Flocken, Senator