Bottom Line: Join the rally to rescind the Muslim Ban tomorrow (Tuesday) at 5pm on the Brower Commons steps, 145 College Ave. New Brunswick.
Monday, January 30, 2017
Dear Union members,
Yesterday we wrote to you – in the form of an “Urgent Bulletin” – to share information directly relevant to those of you injured by President Trump’s Muslim Ban. To our knowledge, one German graduate student of Iraqi descent returned safely to the US – after submitting to unusual questions as to his place of birth and possession of other passports. A Syrian graduate student was not so lucky. Authorities let her fly to Paris on Saturday but then prevented her from continuing onto Newark and deported her to Lebanon. Counsel in Beirut and at the Rutgers Immigrant Rights Clinic are now working on her behalf. Faculty at CUNY are rallying today to support their Iranian graduate student, Saira Rafiee, who was stopped in Abu Dhabi. We can only imagine how many women, men, families, careers, courses, research projects, departments, and universities are being harmed. The Muslim Ban, in short, is hitting the Rutgers community and higher education in general with direct force.
So what is to be done? We need to end the Muslim Ban. President Barchi, who indicated his concern yesterday, should demand its immediate rescission (as have the AAU and the Rutgers Center for African Studies). The first specific action we urge upon Union members is to show up personally at the rally Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 5pm on at Brower Commons, 145 College Ave, called by Muslim student groups and their allies.
Petitions – and we also urge you to sign this one circulating among academics who oppose the Muslim ban – have a certain impact. But Trump seems to respond more to bodies in the street, that is, to people visibly and viscerally outraged at his misrule and joined together in large numbers. For the next four years, we will need to show up personally, as many of us did nine days ago in Washington, DC and New York for the Women’s March. Some of you also protested at Newark and JFK airports over the weekend – actions which contributed to the release of a number of detainees. If we are to blunt Trump’s attacks on dignity and tolerance, then we are going to have to do it with our bodies and voices.
We write in this uncompromising tone because something fundamental is changing in the United States. It must be said and said again: we denounce the Muslim Ban as a particularly odious, ignorant, prejudiced, and cruel action by a strongman already known for such qualities. On another level, we wish to draw your attention to a qualitative shift in the nature of rule emanating from Washington, DC. Although officially penning an executive order, Trump launched the Muslim Ban as something more like a decree. He signed impulsively and arbitrarily, without proper review and adjudication. On the same day, Friday, Trump signed another decree to purge - from the National Security Council - the director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In their place, he substituted Steve Bannon, his chief strategist and formerly CEO of Breitbart News. Such blatantly irresponsible acts signal the onset of autocracy: President Trump is jettisoning knowledge and expertise that conventionally steer the ship of state. These are not normal times. Trump is not governing – in the sense of a government of laws. He is cementing a regime.
To come back to the question of what must be done, we must also preserve our university – and every institution of higher education and research – as a sanctuary for democratic expression and values. Academic freedom is more important than ever. Most Americans do not have it. While the First Amendment keeps (most) outspoken individuals from jail, nothing protects their employment. The faculty who enjoy academic freedom (and not all the faculty do) need to use it. And we need to defend it from threats both internal and external to Rutgers University. Our Union, as well as the national AFT and AAUP, stand with you in that fight for the next four trying years and beyond.
So join us on the steps of Brower Commons tomorrow at 5pm in defense of our students and colleagues, and be ready to join us for the March for Science, which has just been announced for April 29 in Washington, DC.
David, Deepa, and Teresa
David M. Hughes
Professor of Anthropology
President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT full-time faculty union
Associate Professor of Journalism & Media Studies
Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT full-time faculty union
Part-Time Lecturer, Journalism & Media Studies
President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT part-time faculty union