Campus News

University seeks to provide support to students affected by immigration ban

By Michelle Adams, Editor in Chief

Shenandoah University is reaching out to support international students who may be affected by President Donald Trump’s Friday executive order banning citizens of seven Middle Eastern nations from entering the United States.

In an email to the University community on Monday, University President Tracy Fitzsimmons said that while the University is unsure yet “how this executive order will affect our university community members who are from these designated countries, the university stands ready to support any and all affected individuals, in any way possible.”

She recommended that university community members from these countries are “remain in the United States for at least the next 90 days.” She also warned that “if you leave during [this] period of time, you may not be permitted to re-enter.”

Other schools in and around Washington, D.C., like the University of Virginia and George Washington University, have extended similar warnings to their students. The University of Maryland at College Park’s president, Wallace D. Loh, expressed concern to The Washington Post not just for his students and faculty, but also for the “educational and research missions of [their campus],” which he anticipates being significantly harmed by this order.

James Madison University, located less than 75 miles from Shenandoah’s Winchester campus, released a similar statement to that of Fitzsimmons’ on Monday, offering support to their students via their own international services office.

Fitzsimmons also used her message to clarify the extent of Trump’s order, saying that it “blocks citizens of seven countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.”

“It appears the order does not prevent permanent residents – ‘green card’ holders – from the designated countries from entering into the United States, but there has been some confusion on this issue,” Fitzsimmons wrote. “The order has been controversial and its legality has been challenged.”

Some international students are expressing concerns about the executive order, but they say that they feel safe at Shenandoah.

Ghadah Alotaibi, an international graduate student from Saudi Arabia, said the reason she “chose to come to the United States is that it is free and democratic country that accepts and respects people from different races and religions.”

“For the three years I have been [at Shenandoah], I’ve never felt an outsider,” she said. “I was welcomed as an international and as a Muslim too.”

Alotaibi said that she feels “for those people who are detained or sent back. It must be hard to be separated from family.” She still expects her family to come to the United States to attend her graduation in the spring, but she is concerned, she said, “as [is] any Muslim individual who lives in the U.S.”

In the conclusion of her email, Fitzsimmons promised that “Shenandoah University is committed to diversity and inclusion in all areas of university life, and we value a campus culture of compassion, responsibility, advocacy and justice.”

“It is this campus culture that I am most proud of,” she wrote, “and is what makes us Shenandoah Strong.”

Fitzsimmons and the University administration are encouraging those concerned about the executive order and its impact to reach out to Bethany Galipeau-Konate, Shenandoah’s director of international programs.


Full text of Fitzsimmons’s email:

Members of the Shenandoah University community,

As I’m sure you are aware by now, an executive order signed by President Trump on Friday, Jan. 27, blocks citizens of seven countries from entering the US for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The order also suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days. It appears the order does not prevent permanent residents – “green card” holders – from the designated countries from entering into the United States, but there has been some confusion on this issue. The order has been controversial and its legality has been challenged.

While we don’t yet know exactly how this executive order will affect our university community members who are from these designated countries, the university stands ready to support any and all affected individuals, in any way possible.

If you have concerns about this executive order and how it impacts you, please share your concerns with Director of International Programs Bethany Galipeau-Konate at bgalipea@su.edu. If you are a university community member from any of the designated countries, it is recommended that you remain in the United States for at least the next 90 days; if you leave during that period of time, you may not be permitted to re-enter.

I want to make it clear that Shenandoah University is committed to diversity and inclusion in all areas of university life, and we value a campus culture of compassion, responsibility, advocacy and justice. It is this campus culture that I am most proud of, and is what makes us Shenandoah Strong.

We welcome all people here at Shenandoah University. No matter one’s religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, sexual identity or country of origin. Shenandoah is and will always be a home for all people.

-Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D.

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