UVenus Responds: The Current Political Climate

University reactions in Canada and the U.S.

March 22, 2017

​In order to keep up momentum from our recent posts on the Women’s March and #ADayWithoutAWoman, we asked University of  Venus contributors to describe what has been going on on their campuses, particularly with regard to the recent Executive Orders affecting Muslim students and scholars.

Deanna England, The University of Winnipeg, Canada
I received an email a couple weeks ago from an Iraqi student who was shortly to begin classes at Iowa State University. They were uncertain whether this would be possible and were hoping that we could accommodate them. At that moment the only information I had to work with was from the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies (CAGS) - a group that had already been in significant discussions with the US Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). As instructed, I advised the student to contact their institution directly as information was changing daily; if they were unable to attend Iowa State, we would be willing to work with them on applying to graduate school with us, though technically the application deadline to do so had already passed. I didn’t hear back from the student, which I am hoping means that they were in fact able to take up their studies.

Recently, our President sent out a message indicating that application fees will be waived for any students applying to graduate or undergraduate studies from students in the seven countries affected by the immigration ban signed by the US President. This follows a message sent out just two weeks earlier condemning the Montréal mosque shootings. These are small gestures, and possibly just symbolic - however I am proud that our President has taken the time and effort to make public her commitment to making a positive contribution to this important dialogue in these uncertain times.

Gwendolyn Beetham, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA

I think that one of the most important things we can do at this time is to continue our work as educators, so I’m most excited about the many teach-ins that have been happening around campus. These include #ADayWithoutAWoman teach-in held on March 8th, organized by graduate and medical students. The teach-ins have explored everything from race and gender in the classroom, to reproductive rights, to connecting the issues that immigrant student face with the experiences of immigrants in the local community.


Another thing that I think is hugely important at this moment is to create more synergy between Academic Departments and Student Affairs. Although there is often division at the level staff and faculty, students themselves do not see these two entities as divided. For example, programming offered by Residence Life, multicultural centers, and women’s centers is incredibly important in that they helps students feel seen and heard, but they should not be the only spaces where students feel affirmed. There is a great need for a holistic approach to education - one that sees students as individuals with multiple and intersecting interests and identities - and this should be reflected in both the academic and student support sides of the university.

Janni Aragon, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada

I spent the recent #ADayWithoutAWoman wearing red in solidarity with others who were on strike or who opted to not work that day. Overall, the Day Without Women was inspiring and reminds me of what I’ve read about the 1961 Women Strike for Peace action, and the historic 1975 Icelandic women’s strike. It is key that we keep the momentum going from the January 21, 2017 marches across the globe. What I appreciate most is that people around me are talking more about the issues and taking different steps to respond. This varies from more emails, coffee, posters around campus informing Muslim students that they are welcome here, to more events related to Academic Freedom and the important connections between Activism and Scholarship.

Victoria is the capital city for the province and the legislature is rather close. And, there are already calls for the solidarity march for science on Earth Day. Victoria also has a local #resist meet up group that has had an array of different calls for action. The History faculty have sponsored a Syrian refugee family, and there are other countless examples of compassion and activism taking place across campus. Our university President formed a committee in response to the US Travel Ban, and I’ll be following that closely. Overall, there are responses taking place on and off campus and seeing the calls for solidarity softens the outrageous headlines.


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