Almost 50,000 international students study in Pennsylvania, 13,000 of whom go to school in Philadelphia. Since last Friday, when President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning all refugees as well as suspending immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Philly’s major universities have been rushing to make contact with the dozens of international students and staff who are directly affected.
Temple University officials say up to 60 students and more than a dozen staff members are impacted by the ban; the school has made contact with all of them, and doesn’t believe any are outside the United States.
Meanwhile, Penn and Drexel officials haven’t released the number of students on their campuses who were impacted, but both schools are among the top five in Pennsylvania in terms of the number of international students. Within the state, Penn hosts more than 6,000 international students, which is second only to Penn State and Carnegie Mellon, according to the Institute for International Education. Drexel University has nearly 4,000 international students.
According to the Institute for International Education, more than a million international students were enrolled in higher education in the United States in the 2015-16 academic year. Of them, about 17,000 were here through institutions based in the seven countries listed in Trump’s executive order (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen).
Every school is taking a slightly different approach to dealing with the ban, but many across Pennsylvania have pledged legal assistance for students and staff who have concerns about international travel from now on. A number of college presidents and top leaders have explicitly criticized the ban, saying it’s antithetical to what universities strive to do. And some local schools are urging students from the seven countries named in the order to stay in the United States until it’s known if they’ll be able to get back into the country.
Here’s a look at what a few of the top schools in Philadelphia are doing to assist students impacted:
University of Pennsylvania
Total number of students: 24,960
Total number of international students 2015-16 per IIE: 6,221
Number of students impacted by ban: Unclear
What school leaders have said: Penn President Amy Gutmann blasted Trump — a Penn graduate — in a speech on the school’s campus, calling his executive order “injurious to our work,” according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
“We will do everything in our power, speak to every friend and ally, and leave no stone unturned in our efforts to urge President Trump to change course and rectify the horrible damage this Order has caused,” Gutmann said.
In a letter posted on the school’s website, Gutmann wrote: “we must not and will not remain silent.”
“We stand for open-hearted compassion and open-minded opportunity. We will remain unyielding in our allegiance to our fundamental principles and to each other,” she continued. “Penn will not bend.”
The Penn Law dean also released a statement critical of the executive order, writing “I regard the categorical nature of the Order as antithetical to Penn Law’s mission and values.”
Also, Penn Law is currently considering extending offers of admission to students from several of the countries listed in Trump’s ban, putting their academic future in jeopardy. He also noted the University is planning to host a large conference in March with international attendees from nations on Trump’s no-go list, “some of whom may not be able to travel to participate.”
What the school is doing to support those affected: Penn Global has set up a web page with notices on changes regarding the immigration policy. It tells all international students, staff, faculty and scholars who are planning to travel outside the U.S. to “carefully assess whether it is worth the risk to travel outside the country.” They’re encouraged to contact the Office of International Student and Scholar Services.
The page also provides information for international students, staff, faculty and scholars who are currently abroad. Penn is encouraging those individuals to fly into the Philadelphia International Airport, as the proximity to Penn “will allow for the most rapid response to any situations involving members of the Penn community that may arise upon entry.”
Anyone affiliated with Penn who is barred from entering the country is being told to first call Penn Police who will notify the appropriate authorities.
In addition, Penn Law’s Transnational Legal Clinic and Toll Public Interest Center are co-hosting an immigration information and referral clinic for members of the Penn community next Friday, Feb. 10. Penn Law Associate Dean for Public Interest Programs Arlene Rivera Finkelstein said the school will host three clinic this semester.
Finkelstein said law students involved in the project will work with any member of the Penn community who has legal questions on the immigration policy changes and will refer them if further representation is needed.
“We anticipate having a wide range of students working on this and related projects we’re doing for the larger community,” Finkelstein said. Details on the clinic can be found here.
Total number of students: 38,297
Total number of international students 2015-16: 3,229
Number of students impacted by ban: Between 55 and 60. School officials also said about a dozen staff and faculty members are also impacted.
What school leaders have said: Penn President Richard Englert wrote a letter to the university community, and was far less critical of the order itself than Gutmann. (Reminder: Temple is a state-related university.) In the letter, Englert wrote that “Temple prides itself on being a community of diverse scholars, many of whom come to us from foreign nations.”
“We are committed to enabling our faculty, students and visitors – both from the U.S. and from locations around the globe – to contribute to the vitality of the education we provide and the role we play in the local, regional and global economy,” he continued. “We embrace diversity as integral to our mission of education and discovery. Temple is a better university because of this diversity.”
Englert also urged anyone impacted by the policy changes to get in touch with the school’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services.
What the school is doing to support those affected: Temple spokesman Ray Betzner said of the students and staff impacted by the ban, all are in the United States and Temple is encouraging them to stay in the country until the school can ensure they’ll be allowed back into the United States if they leave. Betzner said the school’s been in contact with the students and staff impacted.
Here’s what the school wrote in an email to international students and scholars:
Please know that we have heard from many of you recently regarding concerns about the immigration changes that are being reported widely in the media. We don’t yet have answers for many of your questions, but ISSS is very closely monitoring the situation and is working with our campus colleagues and immigration attorneys to ensure that we distribute as soon as we can information based on official actions by federal offices and agencies. And as you continue to watch the media reports and social media postings, we encourage you to distinguish carefully between what is official and what is merely speculation and rumor.
Total number of students: 25,595
Total number of international students 2015-16 per IIE: 3,984
Number of students impacted by ban: Unclear
What school leaders have said: Drexel President John Fry released a letter to Drexel students, faculty and staff that was critical of Trump’s order, writing that “the chaotic implementation of the presidential order over this weekend — with key provisions modified, and others halted by federal judges on Saturday — has only intensified our shared concerns.”
He continued: “We also know that some of our students and colleagues not only are anxious about the impact of this order on their lives, studies and research, but are also shaken and hurt, knowing that this country has singled them out — and their families, home countries, religions, and the like — for seemingly discriminatory treatment. They may be unable to travel home in an emergency. And they may well be feeling isolated, as family members are prohibited from visiting from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.”
In the letter, Fry urged students and staff from any of the affected countries to “defer any planned travel outside the country until the situation can be clarified.”
What the school is doing to support those affected: Drexel officials didn’t respond to a request for comment. Anyone impacted by the ban is being encouraged to get in touch with officials from the school’s Office of International Students and Scholar Services.