By Emad Nadim, Harvard Business School,
Class of 2018 and Contributor at The Harbus
Harvard reacts to the implications of President Trump's Immigration Policies
President Donald Trump on Friday 27th January signed an executive order limiting foreign nationals' admission into America. While the first wave of the order affects citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, due to the ambiguity embedded within the it, the full extent of the order's scope is yet to be determined.
The executive order has created great anxiety for international students. An HBS Classcards search revealed that at least three current MBA students list their country of origin as one that is immediately affected by the ban. A significant number are considered to be affected across Harvard University. There is widespread doubt and unease amongst the entire international student body about how they should treat their current status in the US, and what they should do regarding any travel plans - academic, professional or social.
The future is uncertain for many faculty members. In addition to the international faculty that benefit Harvard with their vast experience, there are many whose primary research lies in regions of the world that they may no longer be able to access. For example, Harvard Kennedy School has a considerable Iran Project.
Admitted Students Weekend takes place at the start of February and many future students expect greater clarity about the future. Under conditions of anonymity, one international admit for the class of 2019 told the Harbus, "I have no idea if I will be able to get a student visa. I cannot apply 120 days prior to the start of the program and as I am currently working abroad, I will be quitting my job and going home to apply for a visa. If this doesn't work out, it'll mess up my entire future".
Harvard International Office is monitoring the situation and has set up an assistance service for those affected. This comprises of legal and immigration specialists. In an email to international students on 28th January, HIO states that "all foreign nationals should carefully assess whether it is worth the risk to travel outside the country".
The RC year recently received news of where they will travel to for FIELD Global Immersion, a crucial part of the HBS MBA Program. HBS will have to ascertain whether international students should be asked to travel abroad without guarantee of admission into the US upon their return. International EC students are concerned as well. Work visas are likely to be impacted and more immediately, many are distressed about cancelling their parents' plans for attending their graduation.
Hazami Barmada is a Syrian student at HKS. A social justice activist herself, she feels that the University and the student body have an important role to play. "Harvard has a diverse student population who give the school a huge amount of perspective and pay substantial fees. These are individuals who are set to be large contributors to society and to the economy. Harvard should partner with students to find solutions".
Dean Nitin Nohria's email on January 29th acknowledged the plight of international students and reiterated the value of the School's diversity, "Let's draw on this diversity in the days and weeks to come to determine what we as a community can do to make sure our voices and viewpoints are heard, and to support one another during difficult times".
As participants of a leading MBA program, HBS students, faculty and administration will need to debate some complex issues:
- How will this order impact or restrict the talent pool of students and scholars at HBS?
- How will the program be affected in its ability to impart globally relevant experiences through components such as FIELD Global Immersion?
- Will HBS still be able to deliver on its mission to educate leaders that make a difference in the world?
- What will be the ramifications for the school's funding?
- How should "allies", especially US citizen students, react?
Drew Faust, the President of Harvard University, has already hinted at coordinated action across American Universities to lobby government. In doing so, they would attempt to safeguard the wellbeing of some vulnerable members of the academic community, such as undocumented students and Muslims.
As divisions run rife across the nation and scenes of protest rallies become commonplace, the strength and unity of our community will be undoubtedly tested in the upcoming weeks and months.
Emad Nadim (HBS '18) has managed global brands such as Cadbury chocolate for 8 years prior to HBS. While at college, he started the Pakistan chapter of the world's largest youth leadership organization, AIESEC. Being a dual citizen of Pakistan and the UK, and having grown up in the UAE, he is passionate about diversity and global cohesion.
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