To all Metropolitan State students, faculty, and staff:
Since last Friday, many members of our University community and their friends and families have been deeply concerned about the known and potential implications of the recent executive order regarding the travel restrictions affecting refugees, immigrants, and permanent residents of seven nations in Southwest Asia and Africa: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
While we are facing an uncertain policy environment and our civil and legal systems are encountering unprecedented issues, I want to assure all members of our community of two things.
First, our University operates as a leading member of a statewide system guided by an “enduring commitment to enhancing Minnesota’s quality of life by developing and fostering understanding and appreciation of a free and diverse society and providing equal opportunity for all its students and employees.” Our governing Board’s anti-discrimination policy embraces and protects all the diversity of personal backgrounds, identities, and life experiences reflected in our statewide network of learning communities. Stressful times like these serve to demonstrate the power of those commitments.
Metropolitan State’s own mission, vision, and University values explicitly underscore our commitments to disciplined inquiry, excellence, anti-racism, and inclusion. In the weeks ahead, these values will be visible and felt as we all exercise vigilance and empathy for each other’s welfare and needs.
The other assurance is that we will mobilize the capacities of our University to address our members’ varied needs. For those studying with us under the terms of student visas and directly affected by the executive order, the resources of our International Student Services office are available to provide information, counsel, and referrals as needed. Prevailing wisdom is that individuals should postpone travel to any of the listed countries for at least the next 90 days. Individuals who have come to the U.S. from the listed countries should carefully consider any travel outside the U.S. The ISS staff will be available to assist our students with their questions.
In the days ahead, we will collaborate with University colleagues and community allies to provide times and spaces for the reflective gatherings and listening spaces that will be needed to process the emerging situation and to explore responses that can express our values and commitments in meaningful ways. The Dean of Students will work with the Cultural Coordinators to reach out to students who may be distressed. I have asked the Director of Student Life and Leadership to coordinate with student organizations to see how the University can support them and their activities related to this controversy. I plan to meet with the Student Senate to answer their questions and solicit their counsel on supportive responses.
We will do all we can to support faculty as they deal with these difficult topics in their classrooms. As a University we have a commitment to maintaining safe, respectful educational spaces for all students to explore the many facets of this situation. Students, faculty, and staff must be free to express contrary viewpoints, so long as university conduct rules are not breached.
This University will continue, in the days ahead, to support and include all members of our community, whatever stresses or uncertainties each may be experiencing. No one among us needs to walk through the coming weeks in isolation. If you see particular needs or issues, please contact your instructor, dean, supervisor, the chief diversity officer, provost, or me. We will continue to monitor the situation and work with the System’s General Counsel to determine appropriate action as further developments unfold. Please watch for ongoing communications about support and discussion opportunities and please stand together with compassion.
Virginia “Ginny” Arthur, JD