Following the recent Washington Post article on international perspectives on the US election, this week’s UVenus response is focused on our contributors living and working in universities outside the United States. We also asked contributors who have partnerships with organizations and universities outside the United States, as well as large international student populations the following question: how are the US election results affecting your university/research/relationships and your international students?
Janni Aragon, University of Victoria, BC, Canada:
I am an American immigrant teaching in Canada and my students’ response has been palpable. During the election results, my students were messaging me via different social media channels reacting to the results in real time. There was lots of concern about the relationship between Canadians and Americans, as well as heightened concerned for the array of marginalized groups in the United States. We chatted about what happened and what this means moving forward. It’s been solemn conversations since.
Ernesto Priego, University of London, UK:
The morning after, I could feel people were more tired than usual and I perceived a sense of gloom in my commute (I’m sure many others, like me, found it hard to sleep that night). There was a quiet sense of disappointment, concern and sadness. That day, I had supervision meetings with my students, all of them from BME backgrounds. One of my students said they were not surprised at all: “any result would have been bad for people like us”, they said calmly. Unfortunately, there is this feeling in Higher Ed that after Brexit and Trump, it has to be business as usual. I personally think the Higher Education sector needs to reflect more auto-critically on its role in perpetuating the privilege of a and the lack of access of many. There is much shock at the result of the election in the US, but I wish it also came with more of a critical reflection on the role of academia (and academic publishing in particular) in increasing and developing new and steep barriers to education, the development of critical thinking/interpretation/information behaviour/literacy skills and social mobility. The sector feels threatened in an era that distrusts expertise, but the sector is largely failing at demonstrating it cares about the creation of knowledge for the social good, equality and progress and not just for its own preservation and advancement. I say this personally as a British citizen exercising my individual freedom of to express my opinion; my views do not represent colleagues, employers, students or any associates. I guess the fact that many of us need to clarify this distinction when expressing ourselves publicly says a lot about the current state of affairs.
Bonnie Stewart, University of Prince Edward Island, PE, Canada:
I would say the effect of the US election has been significant where I live, but in unofficial ways. There has been no formal response from my institution or faculty to my knowledge, but a deep sense of shock and concern runs through my conversations with colleagues and students. The two primary realizations that I see dawning are:
1. Canada is not far enough away to escape Trump’s international impact, particularly in terms of climate change and international conflict, nuclear or otherwise (sorry to all you Americans who’ve been saying you’ll move)
2. Canada is not in any way immune to the cocktail of racism, sexism, able-ism, xenophobia and other dog-whistles that the Trump campaign fed and legitimized. Since the day after the election, we’ve seen a spate of hate crimes in Canadian cities and a Canadian candidate for leadership of our Conservative party saying Trump’s “exciting message” was “one we need delivered in Canada as well.” We have our own version of what I think of as the patriarchal-industrial complex, or the population that apparently wants to make white patriarchy great again, and seem willing to burn down a great deal of the social contract of Canadian society in order to be heard on that front.
So we have no less work to do up here north of the border than the US (or frankly, the UK) do, but we have the privilege of doing it under a national system of official multiculturalism and entrenched LGBTQ rights that is currently politically stable. It is an inheritance I hope we have the wisdom to shepherd through what look like troubled times ahead, and an inheritance I hope our educational institutions will take leadership not just to fight for, but to teach the value of.
A. S. CohenMiller, Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan
I am an American immigrant living and working in Astana, Kazakhstan, in the middle of Central Asia, in a country that is predominantly Muslim. Leading up to the elections, students would approach me and curiously inquire how I was feeling about the election. There was a lot of general interest to see the direction that the US was going to take and some concern among those in particular who have traveled or lived abroad. After the results came in, there have been three primary types of responses: jokes, curiosity, and concern. Jokes came from people who were completed shocked that Americans were interested in voting for a man who has presented himself as clearly filled with hate. The curiosity from students in particular was to try to understand if all Americans agreed with the politics of who was elected, and likewise if that meant that I could be a supporter, despite our ongoing discussions of the importance of equity and diversity within education. (No.) And lastly there has been concern. One graduate student showed particular concern on her face when asked what she thought of the outcome, “Since he [the elected president] is business focused, I am very concerned about the people who do not have much.” As educators abroad, we are involved in consistent discussion and research on addressing inequity and as such find ourselves worried about the ways in which our work will be quelled or interpreted in the months and years ahead. In an attempt to address concerns that all American’s are filled with hate and anger, we have started the project STAND: You, Me, Us as one small step to show that Americans appreciate diversity, are willing to stand for ourselves AND for each other. (Find us on Instagram @STANDyoumeus. If you would like to join, contact us on Instagram to participate or contribute.)
Gwendolyn Beetham, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
As the director of an international program at a university with high percentages of international and immigrant students, it has seemed to me that the primary feelings post election have been: uncertainty, fear, and a desire for action. I have been inspired by students, faculty, and staff who have been tackling the issues facing our international and immigrant students head-on. In the days following the election, staff and faculty circulated a petition to the administration requesting that Rutgers become a sanctuary campus for undocumented students. Last Wednesday, students organized a walk-out in connection with the national #SanctuaryCampus movement.
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