Kempis: University’s lack of preparedness for the travel ban is emblematic of its approach to the international population

Nicole Kempis, Opinion Editor

This is the second in a series that will examine the challenges Northwestern faces as it strives to become a global university.

In the months leading up to the U.S. presidential election, as Donald Trump spouted increasingly isolationist and nationalist discourse, I often found myself wondering how Northwestern would respond if international students’ visas were denied, if we were refused entry to the country or worst of all, deported.

However, our community’s visceral response to Trump’s newly-implemented travel ban has demonstrated that NU does in fact value its international students. There has been an overwhelming show of support for the numerous students affected by this policy, from yesterday’s walkout to President Morton Schapiro’s email regarding the University’s stance on not releasing immigration statuses to the federal government. These are all encouraging first steps that supply a much-needed avenue for students to express dissent. But these initial responses provide neither a plan nor a sense of clarity for international students facing an uncertain future in the U.S., betraying the University’s unpreparedness for an event of this kind.

The day before Trump’s inauguration, I wrote a column examining the potential visa difficulties international students may face going forward, especially those from Muslim nations. Schapiro told The Daily a few days before the inauguration that he was not worried about the issue of visas for international students or students from Middle Eastern countries in reaction to Donald Trump’s policies.

Some may argue that no one could have seen this coming. However, while the speed with which Trump is executing his policies is a surprise, the policies themselves are not. The travel ban reflects Trump’s ideology since the start of his campaign, in which he argued numerous times for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and an enforced Muslim registry.

Schapiro’s response exposes NU’s general lack of preparedness for immigration policies with the potential to profoundly influence its international students. The lack of foresight and concern for issues particular to international students is characteristic of the University’s relationship with its foreign population.

I’m an international student, although not from any of countries on the ban list, and I can attest to the fact that from preparation, to arrival, to the time we spend at NU, there is comparatively little support for foreign students. Although students preparing for a quarter abroad get help with visas and attend compulsory seminars preparing them for culture shock, there is nothing of this nature for international students coming to the U.S for four years or more.

Perhaps it’s not a bad thing for international students to learn a little grit by independently dealing with misinformation and the complexities of the immigration process. But when a student’s ability to stay at a university in which they have already invested much time and money is compromised, NU has to do better. It needs to start taking Trump’s declarations seriously and making available possible reactions to policies that affect international students.

Throughout Trump’s campaign international students joked about deportation, moving to Canada and marrying U.S. citizens. We aren’t laughing anymore. NU needs to stop viewing international students as an incidental addition to the community and start recognizing them as a group in a potentially unstable situation, especially as fears about deportation and familial separation are now tangible and valid for so many NU students. The University should have been prepared to support international students in this way given Trump’s discourse throughout the election. This carelessness is something that needs to change if NU wants to maintain its international population going forward.

Nicole Kempis is a Weinberg junior. She can be reached at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]
The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.