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Alliance for Academic Freedom Responds to Trump Executive Order

By Alliance for Academic Freedom

Suggests American Academic Associations Move Meetings Abroad so Foreign Scholars Can Attend

For More Information Contact: Cary Nelson, 217-356-0649; Kenneth Stern, kenneth.s.stern@gmail.com

(January 31, 2017) — The Alliance for Academic Freedom deplores President Trump’s executive order on immigration. As academics we are deeply concerned that it will keep scholars and students from seven Muslim-majority countries out of the United States. We therefore urge American academic associations to consider moving any upcoming meetings to Canada, Mexico, or other countries where our foreign colleagues can attend.

Academics must be allowed to discuss ideas and work with scholars from across the globe; excluding people based on their nationality is a violation of bedrock academic principles. Knowledge is only advanced when ideas – from scholars anywhere – are judged on their merits.

If we meet in the U.S. when colleagues are excluded from our country because of their religion or nationality, we also give sanction to bigotry.

We are aware that some academics are calling for a boycott of international conferences in the U.S. in response to the executive order. We believe this is the wrong approach. Academic boycotts are anathema. The sharing of ideas with academics everywhere is especially important at times of political and social upheaval. Additionally, a boycott would not put pressure on the Trump administration, which has shown no regard for academics, academic work, or knowledge more broadly. Rather, it would have the unfortunate effect of impairing American academics – an ironic outcome since most U.S. academics oppose President Trump’s order.

Rather than boycott U.S. conferences, we say if our colleagues cannot come to us, we must go to them.

We recognize this is not a perfect solution. The executive order also affects students and faculty from the seven majority Muslim countries already living, teaching, or studying here. If they leave the U.S. they may not be able to return. It thus prevents these scholars from exercising their academic freedom, without justification or cause. They should be encouraged to participate in the relocated conferences by video link.

One way or another – if association meetings are held here or moved abroad – some scholars will not be able to participate in person. We believe moving conferences abroad is the better choice. Aside from the economic impact, the symbolism is important: we cannot conduct business as usual in the face of an executive order that is so dangerous to our academy and our democratic values.

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About the Alliance for Academic Freedom (AAF):
For the AAF’s statement of principles and other materials, see here.