By Amina Diakite
New York City, NY
When President Trump enacted a travel ban during week of his inauguration, the controversial move shocked the world. Few places felt the impact more than Princeton.
Ten percent of the undergraduate population are international students. On January 27, a number of them found themselves in limbo, unsure whether they would be able to return to campus, let alone the United States. Immediately, Princeton pounced. Princeton and 30 other colleges joined a court brief challenging the travel ban and condemning the action.
With the possibility of international students traveling and not being able return to the university, fear ran rampant for both students and administrators. Director of the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding Tenille Haynes stated that the university provided each student with an attorney who traveled to the airport to guarantee their return. As a result, all students were able to return safely to campus.
While Princeton dealt with Trump’s travel ban effectively in some ways, in other ways Princeton’s bubble had burst. Haynes partially attributed the leave of absence of 27 students at Princeton to Trump’s election and policies. She explained that officials and students grappled with Trump’s sexually- and racially-charged remarks. They also ridiculed his stances on race, sexual orientation, and immigration. These actions clashed dramatically with the traditionally liberal stances of the university community.
Still, others held their ground. According to Nicholas Wu, a rising senior at Princeton, he and other students staged a “Day of Action”, allowing students and administration to suspend their routines for a day and have an opportunity to talk about the challenges facing the community.
Meanwhile, Haynes explained that the university provides programs that reach out to marginalized groups like the LGBTQIA community. The LGBTQIA Center helps to foster inclusiveness and diversity within the university. Through projects, meetings, and weekly events, the program sets out to reach the LGBTQIA population by advocating and providing a platform to share their voices and move to action. One example is the Princeton Equality Project that attempts to engross the community in the fight for full equal rights of the LGBTQIA community.
Additionally, Haynes explained that the DREAM team, a student-managed program that helps to advocate for immigration reform, practiced a scholarship initiative to provide funding for the education of undocumented students. This initiative is ongoing, becoming a primary source of support for foreign students with aspiring educational backgrounds. The program provides legal resources as well as grants undocumented students temporary status and protection in order to travel.
The reality of Trump’s executive order impacted not only students, but also their family members and connections outside the university. This includes others who were not in the country at the time of the order but planned to visit or move to the United States. For many immigrants, the executive order plummeted their hope that they could attain a better life in the United States. When asked how students reacted to Trump’s policies, Dean of the College Jill Dolan remarked that undocumented students were terrified and felt a sense of displacement. Princeton continues the fight to expand inclusiveness and diversity within its campus.