February 8, 2017

Students Criticize Morehead for 'Weak' Statement on Trump Ban

City Dope

Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones

Mae Eldahshoury of the UGA Muslim Student Association rallies protesters at the Tate Center before leading them on a march through campus in opposition to President Trump's ban on refugees and travel to and from seven Muslim nations Friday, Feb. 3—just hou

UGA students, along with some family members and faculty, gathered Jan. 31 to voice their concerns in regards to President Trump’s recent executive order prohibiting refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations for 90 days.

The forum was hosted by UGA’s chapter of the NAACP and the Muslim Student Association, the latter of which issued a statement denouncing the ban last this week: “This country was founded by immigrants, and to refuse anyone because of their nationality or religion is unconstitutional, and… we will do everything in our power to voice our objections and support anyone affected by the ban. There has been no evidence to prove refugees are a threat to our nation, so to ban families and individuals who are fleeing the same threats we're afraid of is absurd.”

Specifics of the ban were shared with students, who expressed concern especially for UGA’s international students and their families from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen, who, until a judge stayed the ban on Friday, could not travel to or from the U.S.

NAACP President Mansur Buffins told students they need to be “vigilant in paying attention to the things [the government] is putting forward while we’re still in shock” about the ban, such as Trump’s executive order requiring that for every new regulation implemented, two must be repealed.

“The way people act when they’re afraid, or when a country is afraid of something—historically, fear leads to the worst policies,” Buffins said. “Fear is born out of false narratives,” such as students being subliminally taught in school that Middle Eastern countries are dangerous and violent, he said. “Those false narratives are use to rationalize fear.”

Following UGA President Jere Morehead’s emails to UGA—the first hardly differing from the University System of Georgia’s statement, the second a “personal follow-up”—students said they were surprised at the lack of support and lack of emphasis on the Muslim community at UGA. It wasn’t enough for Morehead to say he is proud of the “more than 2,700 students from 124 countries” studying at UGA, one student said. “As an American, I’m offended. Was this just copy-and-pasted?”

While students understand the deep ties between UGA as a public university and its Republican alumni, Republican politicians and the funding they control, many still felt there was a way for Morehead to take a stronger stance, even to denounce the ban like presidents at Columbia University and Notre Dame, without being disrespectful.

Others felt that there is no choice but for Morehead and UGA to denounce the ban. “This is a humanitarian issue, and it is disrespectful, unacceptable and un-American” not to speak out against it, a student said. “In this case, being diplomatic is not the way to go… if you stay neutral, you are on the side of injustice.”

UGA’s Student Government Association also passed a resolution last Tuesday night “to Support the International Students of UGA.” As a nonpartisan organization, SGA also did not denounce the ban, but emphasized the safety and rights of all students, especially international students.

Whether or not this is the stronger support students were hoping for, through “consistent resistance,” they plan to continue reaching out to representatives, senators and the UGA administration to demand vocal opposition to the ban.