Faculty Senate adopts objections to travel ban

By SARAH SNEBOLD/Montana State News

The Montana State Faculty Senate has unanimously endorsed a statement opposing President Trump’s executive order on immigration. The statement said the senators are, “deeply disturbed by this action and concerned not only for the people directly affected by the immigration ban, but with actions that foster a climate permissive of racial, ethnic, and religious intolerance and hostility.”

Eric Austin, faculty Senate member representing the political science department said, “The faculty are uniquely positioned to speak not just to the practical consequences of the order for our students, our teaching and our research, but also through the expertise MSU’s faculty has in the humanities, social sciences and beyond, to address the historical, political, moral and social concerns raised by the order” He said, “As scholars, especially at a land grant university, I think we also have the responsibility to publicly reflect on issues like this, issues that have significant practical and moral consequences.”

The executive order issued on Jan. 27 temporarily banned travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. At its Feb. 1 meeting, the Senate felt that the nature of the order was, “antithetical to the fundamental values of a democracy…While discriminatory uses of power may not necessarily violate the law as currently held – indeed, our history of slavery and institutionalized racial and gender inequities attest to this – citizens pressing for adherence to moral values even when the law is silent or permissive of their violation, are equally essential for the defense of our democratic society.”

Franke Wilmer, Senate chair-elect, during the meeting said that the importance of this statement was, “calling bad ideas, bad ideas, even when they are legal.”

Michael Reidy, faculty Senate representing the History Department, was vocal in discussion saying, “we have a moral responsibility to guard against these things. It’s the responsibility of faculty and students to expand on this. Our university is founded on inclusivity and diversity…we need to stay as strong and outspoken as possible.”

After the meeting, the departments of history, philosophy and Religious Studies attached the ideas from Reidy to the front page of their website: “The executive order is an attack on these principles of academic freedom and religious toleration. It is grounded on toxic notions of immigrants and refugees, uses purposefully false arguments concerning threats to our national security, and helps promote a climate of fear and intolerance.  As an academic department in a land grant institution, our mission is to foster an atmosphere that is conducive to the free cultivation of ideas, and we take our moral responsibility seriously to defend that mission when under attack from political and ideological forces. We want all students who have been affected by the Executive Order to know that they are welcome – indeed, invited – into our Department, into our offices, and into our classrooms.”

Reidy expressed disappointment in ASMSU’s lack of response to the immigration issue. He emphasized that the foundation of a university is the faculty and student population: “they are the ones who have to defend the principles and the ideals of the university … indeed, students are more important in this regard than faculty.”

The senators’ statement ended with a unified stance for MSU students and scholars, “We stand unified and uncompromisingly for the protection of the human rights of all people, including our students, staff and faculty at Montana State University, who are offended and potentially directly impacted and harmed by this executive order.”

Wilmer said, “In the end, I believe senators voted unanimously because they overwhelmingly wanted to express their strongest support for their colleagues and students, graduate and undergraduate, who are directly or indirectly impacted by the President’s executive order.”

The faculty senate statement can be found at http://www.montana.edu/FacultySenate and the statement by the Department of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies can be found at http://www.montana.edu/history.

– edited by Chelsea Anderson

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