Harvard Graduate Council members voted unanimously to “stand as a united body against the polarization affecting this country” in an open letter adopted at the body’s Monday meeting.
In the letter, the Council discusses President Donald Trump’s immigration order without taking an explicit stance on the highly controversial and widely criticized travel restrictions. For almost an hour, Council members debated details of the statement.
“We believe in bridging the divisive nature of this order. We stand for providing safe environments dedicated to equality and due process,” the letter reads.
The letter, which was addressed broadly to Harvard graduate students, notes the executive order’s impact on the Harvard community and asserted the Council’s commitment to students on campus. But at their meeting and in the letter, the Council was cautious not to take a political stance on the topic.
“Irrespective of specific politics, on which we respect the right of every student to his or her own opinion, this body is united as advocates for truth, which includes the values of integrity and justice,” the letter reads.
Trump’s executive order, issued last month, halts immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days and suspends entry for Syrian refugees indefinitely. Multiple federal courts, however, have issued preliminary injunctions to prevent enforcement of part of the order, pending further litigation. As many as 111 Harvard affiliates come from the listed countries, and at least four Harvard scholars had difficulty entering the United States after Trump signed the order.
The council considered releasing a statement on the immigration order at a previous meeting two weeks ago, but did not take any action at the time.
A key issue during the meeting's discussions was whether the statement would be interpreted as being partisan in nature and whether it was appropriately encompassing of all graduate students’ views. The Council has previously declined to adopt statements on policy issues for this reason.
Council Vice President and Business School representative Simeon Bochev said that members of the Business School’s student association had expressed concerns over the inclusivity of the draft statement.
“At HBS this was a contentious discussion,” Bochev said, “The major concerns regarding the statement came from students who felt their voice was not welcome, not just at Harvard Business School, but at Harvard broadly. “
“These are people who are not Trump voters or Trump supporters, but people who feel that they aren’t actually included,” said Bochev, “Quite frankly, I also feel sometimes that if I don’t hold a certain view, I’m not respected the same way.”
Natalie Z. Wang, the body’s Chair of Advocacy and Diversity, added that she had received emails from students sympathetic to Trump’s policies who said they were concerned about whether the Council would conflict with their views.
“From my position, I am very happy to be receiving these e-mails,” Wang said, “The reason for that is that they feel comfortable coming to me. And they see that my position and what we do is something that could acknowledge [their concerns].”
All 11 voting members of the Council present for the meeting, however, ultimately voted in favor of adopting a final version of the open letter. At the meeting, the Council also unanimously voted to send University President Drew G. Faust a statement requesting additional student involvement in the search for a new Law School dean.
—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.—Staff writer Phelan Yu can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @phelanyu.
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