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At a time when many are accusing President Donald Trump of racial prejudice, University President Drew G. Faust issued a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday statement reaffirming the University’s commitment to equality and an open community.
She said this community should extend beyond Harvard’s campus to the nation at large.
“Martin Luther King Day is an opportunity for us all to reaffirm the values of justice and equality that define our nation and animate all we do at Harvard,” Faust wrote. “Now more than ever, it is our responsibility to continue his work and carry forward his legacy, at Harvard and beyond.”
Faust’s remarks come after Trump garnered national headlines for reportedly making vulgar, racially charged remarks on immigration in a White House meeting on Jan. 11. He directed his comments toward immigrants from Haiti and Africa during a discussion of a bipartisan deal to provide temporary status to certain immigrants. Trump reportedly asked legislators why the United States should accept immigrants from “shithole countries.”
Trump has since denied making those comments, but some meeting attendees dispute that claim.
In her statement Sunday, Faust emphasized the importance of making Harvard accessible to people from a range of countries and backgrounds in an effort to become a “more diverse and inclusive community.”
“We recognize that our excellence derives from our openness to the widest possible pool of talent and our commitment to the full flourishing of all students, staff, and faculty, whatever their ethnicity, race, country of origin, gender, sexuality, economic circumstances, disability status or political perspective,” Faust wrote.
Faust has repeatedly emphasized the importance of American higher education remaining open to immigrants and international students. She has spoken out against Trump’s immigration policies, denouncing Trump’s Sept. 2017 decision to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—an Obama-era program that allowed undocumented youth to legally live and work in the United States—as “cruel.” Since then, Faust has continued advocacy for undocumented students by signing letters defending DACA and appearing on national television. Roughly 65 undocumented students currently attend the College.
In December, Faust continued her advocacy for immigrants by joining over two dozen University presidents in a coalition that pledges to support undocumented and international students on campuses across the United States. The alliance called on Congress to pass permanent legislation protecting undocumented students.
Protections for undocumented students from Congress, however, are still up in the air. A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to temporarily keep DACA protections on Tuesday and, on Saturday, U.S. immigration officials resumed accepting applications for the program. Trump, who declared on Sunday that he is “not a racist” amid controversy over his inflammatory comments, has tweeted that DACA is “probably dead,” continuing the debate in Congress over permanent legislation.
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