What You Need to Know About Colleges and the Immigration Ban

January 29, 2017

President Trump's executive order Friday that bars all refugees from entering the United States, as well as citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries, prompted colleges to frantically start trying to determine what it meant for them. Here's what you need to know:

Who is affected?

The order touches many different parts of academe.

Students, professors, and researchers traveling internationally found themselves in limbo. Two professors at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth were detained at Logan International Airport, in Boston, the university said in a statement. An undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was also reportedly barred from re-entering the United States because she is an Iranian citizen. (Of the more than 15,000 international students who are directly affected by the order, roughly 12,000 are from Iran).

Other students and scholars found themselves separated from family members who were traveling abroad:

The Boston Globe reported on an Iranian scientist, set to take a job in a lab at Harvard Medical School, who was turned away from a flight to Boston in Germany.

Even if academics weren't personally affected by the order, their work might be. Ph.D. programs seeking to recruit students from the seven countries will be stymied by the order if it continues.

Thomas Erdbrink, the Tehran bureau chief for The New York Times, on Saturday tweeted details from the cases of a few prospective and current Ph.D. students:

How are colleges responding?

In the hours immediately after the order, colleges circulated statements urging members of their communities who might be affected by it to defer any overseas travel plans. But later in the weekend, college leaders began moving from logistics to rhetoric denouncing the order.

In a statement, Wesleyan University's president, Michael S. Roth, wrote that the institution was "appalled" by the religious test immigrants were being subjected to (the White House has said Christian immigrants will receive priority), and reaffirmed that "there will be no discrimination on the basis of religion on our campus."

Indiana University at Bloomington's international-services office said in a statement that the institution "does not share the sentiments" in the executive order. Similar statements came in from the University of Massachusetts system, the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University, the University of California system, and many other institutions.

National groups also expressed concern about the order. The president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Peter McPherson, called on President Trump to reconsider the order. The president of the Association of American Universities, Mary Sue Coleman, urged the same.

Meanwhile, individual scholars started a petition condemning the order. As of Sunday afternoon, the petition had nearly 5,000 signatures from academics.

What's next?

On Saturday, a judge issued a nationwide stay that prohibits anyone currently in the United States from being deported under the order. But that is said to apply only to a couple hundred people.

Groups across the country, including on campuses, are mobilizing to protest the order. Campuses where groups protested or were planning protests included Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, and many others.

Andy Thomason oversees breaking-news coverage. Send him a tip at And follow him on Twitter @arthomason.