University President William P. Leahy, S.J., along with Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead and Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley, sent an email to students condemning President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order, which imposed a strict immigration ban on countries with large Muslim populations including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The ban was enacted to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” from entering the U.S., and established a religious test for those seeking to enter the country in order to give preference to Christians and other non-Muslim immigrants.
Trump’s action led to a nationwide backlash, with protests breaking out at major airports across the country where American citizens and immigrants alike were denied entry to the country. Many members of Congress and other influential figures criticized the legislation. Thousands took to the streets in major cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston to protest the executive order and to decry its discriminatory and divisive nature.
Although Leahy has not had the best record when it comes to publicly responding to national events and crises, as his most recent email to students was sent in May 2014, he should be commended for responding to such a pertinent matter in a timely fashion. Leahy received criticism following his failure to issue a statement regarding the controversial incident in the Fall in which letters on a sign in the Mod Lot were rearranged to display a homophobic slur. This motivated students to organize a “Silence is Violence” march across campus shortly thereafter. The recent statement, however, represents a departure from Leahy’s precedent of remaining silent regarding political issues that has been set by his actions in recent years.
Leahy, Lochhead, and Quigley’s statement, in part, avows the administration’s increased commitment to creating a university in which all students feel welcome. Leahy took a similarly constructive step earlier this school year when he signed two statements supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order law enacted by President Barack Obama in 2012 that protects undocumented students from deportation.
“The Order is also contrary to American understandings of this nation’s role as a refuge and its place as a society that does not discriminate on the basis of religion or national origin,” the three administrators said in the statement.
This perspective is shared by many following Trump’s prejudiced decision. The three also gave mention to a statement from Pope Francis, who was critical of any person claiming to be a Christian while at the same time shunning refugees seeking safety from war and persecution in their home countries. The trio mentioned a number of campus resources available for student support, such as the Office of International Students and Scholars.
The statement from the administration reaffirms the University’s commitment to providing for and developing a diverse student body at Boston College, at a time in American history in which little is guaranteed regarding the fair and equal treatment of those outside the societal majority.
“We ask all members of the University community to be especially mindful of those among us who are most vulnerable as a result of this Executive Order, and to join us in reaffirming our core values of respect, welcome, and compassion for all,” the three concluded in the email. This reflects a compassionate and constructive approach to this troublesome period. If Trump continues to enact bigoted policies and takes further steps to move the nation away from social progress, similar support from Leahy, Lochhead, Quigley, and other authority figures will become increasingly important to the vitality of the diverse BC community.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor