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Nearly 200 Harvard Professors Sign Petition Opposing Presidential Order

Demonstrators hold signs opposing President Donald Trump’s immigration ban during a large rally in Boston’s Copley Square Sunday afternoon.
Demonstrators hold signs opposing President Donald Trump’s immigration ban during a large rally in Boston’s Copley Square Sunday afternoon. By Timothy R. O'Meara
By Joshua J. Florence, Crimson Staff Writer

Joining thousands of academics worldwide, over 190 Harvard professors have signed a growing petition opposing President Donald Trump’s executive order barring immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

By Sunday evening, nearly 200 Harvard faculty members from across the University’s schools had signed the petition, entitled “Academics Against Immigration Executive Order.” More than 7,100 professors from across the country have signed the condemnation.

“The unethical and discriminatory treatment of law-abiding, hard-working, and well-integrated immigrants fundamentally contravenes the founding principles of the United States,” the petition reads.

More than 30 Nobel laureates have so far signed the petition, including two Harvard laureates: chemistry professor Dudley R. Herschbach and economics and mathematics professor Eric S. Maskin ’72.

On Friday, Trump signed an executive order preventing citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days and indefinitely barring Syrian refugees. After protests against the order around the country, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security John F. Kelly said legal residents from the listed countries would still be permitted to enter the country.

Economics Department Chair David I. Laibson ’88, one of the petition’s signatories, said the executive order was antithetical to Harvard’s values.

“For me, it violates the activities of our community here at Harvard by closing out and disrupting the scholarship of many important members of our community,” Laibson said. “Some of my own students are citizens of these countries and I am now gravely worried about their wellbeing and their ability to conduct scholarship.”

In an email sent to members of the Economics Department, Laibson wrote that he is concerned for students and faculty affected by the executive order and alerted recipients to a protest in Boston’s Copley Square Sunday. In an interview Sunday evening, Laibson said he was “crestfallen” that some Economics students could be unable to continue their studies as a result of the order.

“They are extraordinary members of our community and they are brilliant economists,” he said. “Now they are being told that they are essentially unwelcome in the United States.”

Physics Department Chair Masahiro Morii also sent an email to his department, writing that he hoped “sanity will prevail.” Morii said the executive order could cause significant harm to affected students in his department.

“There are quite a few people in the department, mostly graduate students, who are from the affected countries,” Morii said. “Physics is an international undertaking, and many students have to go to conferences in Europe, Asia, and those opportunities are now barred to them.”

As students and residents protested the executive order in Harvard Square Friday and Copley Square Sunday, Law School lecturer Ian Samuel, took to Twitter. In a post retweeted thousands of times, Samuel offered free legal support to government employees who considered refusing to obey the order.

“Any government official who refuses to execute Trump’s orders on grounds of illegality will receive free representation from me. & I’m good!” Samuel tweeted Saturday.

Samuel said he has since been approached by individuals asking for help and by fellow lawyers offering assistance.

Calling the executive order unconstitutional, Samuel said other Law School faculty should speak out against the Trump administration’s actions.

“I think if you are a member of the Law faculty, you are obligated in some sense to advance rule of law values that are common to all lawyers,” Samuel said.

—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.

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