Dear Members of the Manhattanville College Community,
I write to all of you with deep sorrow and concern regarding the recently issued Executive Order titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”
Despite the purposely misleading language of the title, this Executive Order is basically a measure based on religious discrimination, nothing more, nothing less.
This is not the first time in our nation’s history that we are losing sight of the fact that this is a nation consisting to a large degree of immigrants who, in their overwhelming majority, feel deeply grateful for the opportunity to live and work in an open, democratic society, who are fiercely loyal to the Constitution and who have in fact defended this country and its values both domestically and abroad.
This is not the first time this nation of immigrants has turned against those who, like their own parents or grandparents, have come here to seek a better life for themselves and their children, free of tyranny, oppression, and persecution.
This is not the first time we have passed short-sighted policies that discriminate against ethnic or racial minorities. In the past, such policies have discriminated against Japanese-Americans, African-Americans, Irish-Americans, German-Americans and Italian-Americans, to name just a few groups. In the 1840s and 1850s, we had an entire political party, the Know-Nothing Party or American Party, whose entire platform was based on prohibiting immigration and in particular immigration by Catholics, whom they suspected of plotting to take over the United States in the name of the Pope.
However, even against the backdrop of past prejudices, I do not believe we have ever seen a wholesale discrimination against a particular religious group solely on religious grounds, as now exemplified by this Executive Order directed against Muslims.
Yet, in the end, the Know-Nothing Party fizzled out. In the end, America’s hospitality, generosity of spirit and commitment to the values enshrined in our Constitution and so visibly embodied by the Statue of Liberty have always prevailed, and I believe that they will do so again.
Manhattanville College is proud of its diverse and globalized faculty, students, and staff. We continue to welcome students and colleagues from all over the world, subject to reasonable and normal security checking procedures that most countries have put in place to be vigilant against terrorist infiltrators. Discriminating against some international students and faculty solely because of their religious beliefs is not only discriminatory, but it in effect will also make America a less attractive destination for qualified faculty and students from around the globe, which would be an existential threat to our competitiveness in a global economy.
Federal courts and the conscience and legal expertise of both Republican and Democratic members of Congress will have to determine whether this Executive Order is or is not aligned with the letter of the U.S. Constitution.
What I can say with certainty for Manhattanville College is that religious discrimination (along with racial discrimination and discrimination against gender difference) directly contradicts the core values by which our community has lived, certainly since Mother Dammann’s courageous 1938 address “Principles vs. Prejudices.”
I want to emphatically assure our Muslim students, faculty, staff, alumnae and alumni that the Manhattanville Community will stand with you during these dark hours for America.
While we are all sorting through the fallout of the Executive Order, I would advise students, faculty, and staff who are concerned about their visa or immigration status not to leave the country unless absolutely necessary, and in particular to try and avoid nonessential travel to the areas named in the ban.
Various members of my administration are meeting right now to look into pragmatic solutions – ways in which we can assist our Muslim brothers and sisters in their hour of need.
One of these ways in which we will help if needed is that I will assure any Muslim student that, even if they are deported as the result of this Executive Order, we will find ways that will allow them to complete their Manhattanville degree, if necessary through online courses.
We are also looking into scheduling events that will bring the community together in ways that I trust will reassure them that Manhattanville College is still a home for students, faculty, and staff from all racial, ethnic, religious and gender backgrounds. Our new Vice President for Student Affairs, Donna Eddleman will be in touch later with more information on upcoming events and a list of available College resources.