Rod Paige, interim Jackson State University president and former U.S. Secretary of Education. Credit: Jackson State

State university officials are speaking out in support of diverse student bodies in the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.

“The MSU administration is closely monitoring these matters to see how our university community is impacted – and we will provide appropriate assistance for impacted MSU community members,” Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum said in a statement. “As I have stated on numerous occasions, MSU’s core values of diversity, inclusion, tolerance, and safety for all – regardless their country of origin — do not waver or change.”

Jackson State University interim President Rod Paige said in a statement: “We will continue to be a resource for our international students, faculty and staff to ensure all cultures, religions, and nationalities are accepted and respected on campus.”

Trump’s order, issued over the weekend, indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States and suspended refugee admissions for 120 days. The order also blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days for any reason: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The order has led to confusion and jammed airport and immigration lines, prompting legal action temporarily suspending the order. There have been protests, particularly at U.S. airports that accept international flights.

Millsaps College President Dr. Robert W. Pearigen released a statement Tuesday noting that “Our ‘commitment to good citizenship in our global society,’ as outlined in our vision statement, is revealed in moments like these by the way we teach, work, study, play, and live together.”

“It is my hope that our commitment will be made stronger by the challenges now before us and that we can agree to peaceful, heartfelt, and honest discussions about those challenges,” Pearigen said.

“Last year, international students had an economic impact on Mississippi to the tune of $78.1 million dollars with $18.3 million coming to Mississippi State University,” says Karin Lee, director of international recruitment and retention at MSU.

Mississippi State University has enrolled international students from 88 countries. MSU has 80 students from the seven specific countries referenced in the Presidential Executive Orders, said Sid Salter, the university’s chief communications officer. 

At the University of Southern Mississippi “one student is now unable to travel here to begin attending classes because of the executive order,” says Suzanne Omran, director of International Student and Scholar Services at USM.

“We have five international students attending USM this semester who are from countries listed in the executive order regarding international travel,” Omran added.

While The Mississippi University for Women does not currently enroll students from the seven countries named in the January 27, 2017, executive order, “we remain committed to embracing the diversity of thought, cultural background, experience, and identity to foster an inclusive and intellectually enriched university community,” MUW President Dr. Jim Borsig said in a statement.

Paige noted that at Jackson State, “As Mississippi’s only urban research university, it is critical that we provide a safe, welcoming environment for our students to learn and grow. With at least 63 countries represented on campus, our international students, faculty and staff are an important part of the fabric that creates a diverse Jackson State community.”

The University of Mississippi administration said officials were gathering more details to assess the impact of Trump’s order.

“We are a community of scholars committed to fostering a diverse environment, and we benefit greatly from a strong international and multicultural presence,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said in a letter emailed to faculty, staff and students. “We are currently gathering information and evaluating the impact of the executive orders upon members of our university community.”

Alcorn State University officials also said they were monitoring the impact of the executive order.

“The Office of Global Programs at (601) 877-6533 and the Office of Educational Equity and Inclusion at (601) 877-6700 are available to answer questions and provide support for members of the campus community who hold green cards or visas from one of the countries listed in the executive order,” Clara Ross Stamps, Alcorn’s vice president for marketing and communication, said in an email.

“Millsaps College is an impressive collection of individuals from Mississippi and around the world,” Pearigen noted in his statement. “Our strength as a community comes, in large part, from our diversity — our different socio-economic backgrounds, faiths, races, cultures, political viewpoints, sexual orientations, and yes, nationalities. This diversity makes us a more interesting, tolerant, and dynamic place, and equips us all — students, faculty, and staff alike — with the sort of understanding needed to make a positive difference in the world.”

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Ashley F. G. Norwood, a native of Jackson, earned a bachelor's degree in English from Jackson State University and a master’s degree from the Meek School of Journalism at the University of Mississippi. Norwood, who specializes in multimedia journalism, has been recognized nationally for her documentary film the fly in the buttermilk, which covers the history, perceptions and principles of black Greek-lettered organizations at the University of Mississippi.

One reply on “University officials respond to Trump immigration order”

  1. Universities don’t really want diversity. if they did, they wouldn’t be censoring different opinions, wouldn’t have trigger warnings and safe places. Diversity of thought, diversity of ideas is the very LAST thing universities want. They only want diversity of races so long as they all think the same.

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