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UNC faculty members ask administration to do more about immigration ban

Faculty members signed a response to Chancellor Carol Folt's letter that responded to President Trump's executive order to ban immigration of citizens from seven countries.

Faculty members signed a response to Chancellor Carol Folt's letter that responded to President Trump's executive order to ban immigration of citizens from seven countries.

“Honestly I was sort of frustrated by the communication from the chancellor ... that we all received,” said women’s and gender studies professor Ariana Vigil. “It didn’t go far enough; it didn’t really go anywhere in terms of suggesting concrete ways in which the University can protect faculty and staff.”

Folt’s Sunday night letter to UNC laid out the University’s position toward the order.

“In the coming weeks and months, we encourage everyone to do your best to stay focused on your work, and fully engaged in the dreams that brought you here,” the letter said.

An open letter from faculty members to Folt circulated Monday and Tuesday, asking UNC to do more, including make a pledge like the ones that have been made at University of Michigan and Cornell University. These universities have pledged not to release their students’ immigration information.

“Such statements suggest concrete steps that universities can take to protect the health and well-being of those who study and work there. When can we expect Carolina to make a similar pledge?” the faculty letter says.

Vigil, who wrote the letter, said when she saw the letter from Folt she felt unsatisfied.

“I’m a faculty member; I’m concerned; I want to voice my thoughts and hope to spur action,” she said.

Vigil posted her response to Folt’s letter on Facebook. People responded asking if they could sign it, which led to the letter being circulated around the faculty.

“I’m hopeful we’ll take a stance like some of our peers like Michigan and (the University of Wisconsin-Madison), that we will definitely protect our students, faculty and staff to not provide information on their immigration status, unless we’re required to do so,” said Deborah Stroman, a professor in the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Catherine Zimmer, a professor in the Odum Institute, said she wished the University had chosen to respond in a similar fashion to the University of Michigan and refused to release the immigration status of students, unless forced to by law.

“(Folt’s letter) didn’t involve any direct statement saying that UNC disagreed with the position of the Trump administration on immigration and the results that came from their actions, executive actions,” she said.

Executive Vice Provost and Chief International Officer Ron Strauss said he understood that some people wanted more from UNC’s response, but he respected Folt’s kind words.

“I think that a lot of other people on the campus are writing impassioned comments and things like that — she chose to, what I would call, (an) informative and caring response,” Strauss said.

Jennifer Ho, an English and comparative literature professor, said her understanding of history influenced her decision to sign the faculty letter. She recalled Frank Porter Graham, UNC’s chancellor during World War II, trying to help protect Japanese students.

“I would want Chancellor Folt to kind of look back at a predecessor of hers and the kind of moral courage it took for him to come out with this kind of statement in support of Japanese American students at a time when he had nothing to gain and everything to lose from doing that,” she said.

Ho said the faculty letter is not about politics or ideologies, and she wants more from UNC.

“I want more support,” she said. “I think what I want, regardless of if it’s this executive order or the next thing that happens, what I always want for UNC-Chapel Hill to do is to support all its community members, especially those that feel the most vulnerable in a particular time and place.”

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