By Raneem Al-Ozzi
Ryerson professors are working together to battle U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel and immigration ban.
Up to 20 Ryerson profs have signed a petition to boycott international conferences held in the U.S., denouncing Donald Trump’s travel and immigration ban.
The ban, which was put into effect on Jan. 27, limits travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and was temporarily halted by a U.S. district court in Washington on Feb. 3. The court said it would cause significant and ongoing harm to residents.
Dan Horner, an assistant prof in the department of criminology who signed the petition, said that while unsettled times like these required the exchange of knowledge, the ban on immigration ensured that some scholars would not be able to attend any conferences in the U.S. because of their ethnicity or religion.
“[The ban] poisons the concept that these conferences are a free exchange of ideas,” said Horner.
The Ryerson prof expressed that people should not treat these recent events as something normal. “This isn’t within the normal realm of political life in the U.S,” he said.
According to State Department statistics, 60,000 people were immediately affected by the executive order. This number only reflects the number of visa holders, and does not include dual citizens and immigrants affected.
Dana Osborne, an American prof in the department of languages, literatures and cultures, said she’s been feeling a significant disconnect with her country since the election.
As a means of showing solidarity with those affected by the ban, she signed an online petition with over 40,000 other international academics denouncing the order.
“We are in an incredibly privileged position as individuals protected by institutions like the university, and it is our responsibility to come forward and make our positions known,” said Osborne.
Osborne also added the decisions being made profoundly contradict what many people, especially American youth, want their society to look like.
Osborne recalled having an international Muslim student last semester who strategically selected an institution in Canada in anticipation of the anti-muslim sentiment bubbling in the U.S. during the elections.
“This is the stuff we teach about in history, and dealing with it today is surreal.”
Like Horner, Amina Jamal is boycotting conferences in the U.S. As a Muslim woman, she said she was offended by the ban.
“I’m against all forms of exclusionary policies, and as academics we can all show our opposition to these policies by refusing to travel to a country that bars so many of our colleagues from entering,” said Jamal, an associate prof in the department of sociology at Ryerson.
Jamal said the ban created a hierarchy of scholars. Academics should not be discriminated against for their background or citizenship.
Throughout history, academia in sciences and religious studies flourished the most at a time when people exchanged ideas across cultures, regions and even within, she said.
“It is bread and water for academics to be constantly exchanging ideas with other academics, reading others’ work and presenting at conferences,” said Jamal. “It would be a loss for knowledge production and academia overall to have such a ban.”
She said it is important for Canadian academics and universities to rise to the responsibility of academia.
“We need to open our doors to students and academics, and it will be a gain for us to have academics and scholars join our ranks.”
Jamal referenced Memorial University of Newfoundland. The university has offered to waive the application fees of students applying from the seven countries named in President Trump’s executive order.
Ryerson’s DMZ will offer free workspace, resources and legal counsel to those affected by the ban.
“We need to acknowledge the different experiences of people of colour and people of different religious experiences, become more socially conscious and aware and stand up for what we believe is right,” said Osborne.
“We still have to raise our voices, even if we’re the only voice,” said Jamal.