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Mueller Monday: A new national pastime?

in Opinions/Words of Wagner by

This Monday, Paul Manafort was indicted on twelved counts, including conspiracy against the United States. This, of course, is part of the investigation led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller into potential collusion between Donald Trump and the Russian government to influence the election in favor of the Republican candidate. The indictment along with George Papadopoulos pleading guilty to lying to the FBI signal that Robert Mueller’s investigation is gaining steam, a good sign for those, including myself, who think that it is likely that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to take down former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

My own reaction to speculation from news sources that an indictment was coming on Monday morning made me feel like the question of “who is getting indicted” better fit on the title of a game show. It felt fun, despite the fact that the very sovereignty of the United States is at stake in the investigation. After making a few great jokes on Twitter, including one encouraging Special Prosecutor Mueller to release indictments on days that were more fit for popping bottles of champagne, I wonder if my reaction to the news is problematic for the democratic institutions and norms that I hold dear, especially since it can be argued that making light of Donald Trump contributed to his election. I remember laughing incredibly hard at Trump while watching one of the presidential debates in LPAC, and I shudder at how naive we all were. In laughing off then-candidate Trump, we underestimated Trump’s insidious potential. Could we be laughing away the very freedom to vote a president out of office by joking about the investigation that we hope will take him down?

Or, is laughing at Trump and company flounder in the face of the serious allegations they face a kind of retribution for the stupidity of this presidency? Or is it useful as a coping method in these troubled and uncertain times? Or is Sarah Huckabee Sanders just too roastable for us to not make fun of her blatant lies and even worse metaphors for tax reform?

To answer these questions, I want to start with the fact that there is no good metaphor for tax reform. I almost feel bad for making fun of Huckabee Sanders until I remember that she chooses to peddle the daily lies coming out of the Trump administration despite being qualified for several other jobs, like director of communications for Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated or as a press director for Satan. Laughing at the fools running our country makes it hurt less, and helps the anger not overcome my rational senses. Sending pointed tweets at the press secretary makes me feel better when I want to scream into an abyss.

The Trump circus deserves to be ridiculed, because honestly, they suck. They’re bad people with bad political views who are actively trying to make this country worse for poor people and marginalized group in order to appeal to a mythical silent majority and improve profits for CEOs and pharma bros. I realized that my initial fear regarding using humor to attack the Trump administration was too cautious, now that Trump holds the most powerful position in the world, the only way out is down. While America certainly has a lot left to lose, Trump can be taken down from the tallest tower. Laughing at him makes him angry, and an angry Trump is even easier to take down. As the investigation ramps up, the Trump family will likely keep their inner circle tighter as their world crumbles around them. In the meantime, laughing at them will be the best medicine.

Using humor in the face of the monstrosity that is the Republican president will show the Grand Old Party that the American people do not take their president seriously, which will  make it even harder for them to get their agenda through Congress. As long as moderate Republicans think that the President is to laughable to be associated with, their agenda will continue screeching to a halt in one of the world’s most revered legislative bodies. Making jokes about the president will distract him from advancing his poisonous agenda, and can bring us the joy we deserve after surviving every painful day of a Trump presidency.

I’m looking forward to the next Mueller Monday. I have several drafts of Tweets for each potential indictee, because all eight of my active Twitter followers and I deserve a good laugh.

Stephen Walt: Foreign policy-wise, Trump is much of the same

in News by

Phi Beta Kappa lecturer and foreign policy expert Stephen Walt offered harsh criticism of the American foreign policy establishment last Thursday, Oct. 26. In his talk, titled “Where is U.S. Foreign Policy Headed?” Walt argued that foreign policy under president Trump is still commandeered by the pre-existing bipartisan foreign policy establishment; the administration now pursues long-standing, already flawed policies in an erratic and incompetent manner pursued by Trump.

Walt is a professor of International Affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He authored three books, including The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, which created a media storm. The New York Times called it “ruthlessly realistic,” while others accused it of anti-semitism.  

In his talk, Walt argued that the foreign policy establishment — or the ‘blob,’ as he refers to it — is to blame for decades of failure in global affairs. He referenced the US policy of ‘liberal hegemony,’ defining it as a foreign policy that actively tries to promote the basic principles and ideals of liberal democracy. The policy assumes the US is an indispensable nation, and that it should try to use its power to spread democracy, whether peacefully or by force.

Walt outlined changes in international power dynamics over the past thirty years. China’s power has steadily increased, the relationship between the US and Russia is at its worst since the Cold War, and the Middle East is in turmoil largely due to US efforts at regime change.

According to Walt, the election of Donald Trump, whose policies represent a repudiation of the grand strategy pursued since the Cold War, proves that the American people want change. However, the change in his foreign policy is in how Trump himself acts, not in policy.

Walt blames the establishment for the state of US foreign policy. Although Trump ran on the premise that foreign policy in the US is “a complete and total disaster,” he doesn’t follow through on the policies he supported during the election. McMaster replaced Flynn, Trump said in an interview that NATO is no longer obsolete, he ordered a cruise missile strike in Syria After Assad uses chemical weapons, and he announced 5,000 more troops will be deployed to Afghanistan. According to Walt, these are many of the same actions Hillary Clinton would have taken if she was president.

“In a competition between Donald and the establishment, the establishment is winning,” he said.

Apart from criticizing the policies in place, Walt also listed the policies the US should pursue. The US should reduce or eliminate its military role in Eastern Europe, since Russia isn’t an existential threat to either the EU or the US. Trump should take a harder line with China to prevent it from becoming a regional hegemon and let Russia take the lead in Syria. The US shouldn’t have special relationships with any Middle Eastern powers, and should refrain from pursuing nation-building experiments.

Student reactions to these ideas were mixed.

“[Walt] underestimates Russia’s willingness to take risks given the threat it perceives from NATO and its declining global influence,” said Irina Bukharin ’18. “Although Professor Walt’s views most likely differed from the average Swattie’s, it was really encouraging to see so many people come out to hear his views.”

Frank Kenny ’20 was also unsure about one of Walt’s stances.

“I was surprised to hear him argue for a more interventionist approach when it comes to foreign policy dealing with China,” Kenny said.

Associate Professor of Political Science Dominic Tierney offered a different analysis of post-Cold War US policy. He questioned Walt’s harsh criticism of the establishment, considering the failure of Trump’s anti-establishment agenda. The Trump administration and all its missteps don’t seem to endear Walt to the establishment, like they do with many Americans.

“Instead, [Walt] seems to be sticking to his guns,” said Tierney. “While I think a lot of people look at the Trump administration and think that the establishment is looking better every day, by comparison to some of the blunders that we’ve seen.”

The failure of US foreign policy over the past thirty years, said Tierney, doesn’t have it’s roots in the establishment, although they have blundered.

“If you look at the bigger story of American foreign policy, it’s actually been fairly successful over the centuries and even since WWII, so I’m not sure that the American establishment is the fundamental problem here … that suspicion has been reinforced by the trump administration because it is explicitly anti-establishment and has made very serious mistakes,” he said.

According to Tierney, the deeper reason for these foreign policy gaffes is that America has no one to challenge its power like it did during the Cold War.

“Countries the with kind of power that the US has had since the end of the Cold War in history have rarely acted in restrained and measured ways,” he said.

Despite having controversial views, Walt filled the room with students engaged in

meaningful deliberation, and encouraged reexamining widely-accepted points of view.

College Title IX Policy to Remain in Effect

in News by

In an email sent on Sept. 22, President Valerie Smith assured students, faculty and staff that college IX policy would remain in effect despite the rescission of Obama-era guidelines for college investigations of sexual misconduct, which was announced earlier that day by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

New interim guidelines will let colleges and universities set the standard of evidence in student sexual assault investigations, according to U.S. News. Smith emphasized that while the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter and 2014 Q&A will be nullified — policies that require colleges to use the lowest standard of proof when adjudicating sexual assault cases — Title IX itself will remain in full effect. She affirmed that Swarthmore policies will continue to demonstrate the principles of the college and will not be altered to match the shift in national policy.

“Swarthmore College remains wholly committed to upholding equality and freedom from all forms of discrimination and harassment. Our college policies … are based on our own values and reflective of law, guidance, and best practice,” Smith wrote.

Violence Prevention Educator and Survivor Advocate Nina Harris echoed Smith’s statement, asserting that Swarthmore would not change its standard of evidence required to find an accused student guilty of sexual assault and that the college makes policy decisions according to its own values.

“What you may see change is the level of commitment and investment at some institutions [that] were only acting under government pressure. This has never been the impetus nor basis for our work here at Swarthmore,” said Harris.

According to Title IX coordinator Kaaren Williamsen, the Title IX office reviews its policies routinely every summer. The Sexual Harassment/Assault Resources and Education (SHARE) website, on which the Sexual Assault and Harassment Policy is outlined, states that over 30 adjustments have been made since 2013.

“Swarthmore is committed to providing a fair investigation and adjudication process and our annual reviews provide an opportunity to assure that we are staying current with any new laws, Department of Education guidance, best practice, and community feedback,” Williamsen said.

One 2013 adjustment Williamsen highlighted was a shift in the college’s model for adjudicating student-student sexual assault cases to one that is overseen by an external adjudicator. According to the SHARE site, one adjudicator is a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice who has experience in cases involving sexual violence.

“The external adjudicators are well trained and experienced, and the college felt that the use of an external adjudicator … provided more privacy for the parties since the case would not be heard by a panel ​comprised ​of campus community members,” Williamsen said.

Janice Luo ’19 suggested that the Title IX office respond to the changes to national guidance by being more transparent and visible.

“I think that a lot of students aren’t actually informed on how Title IX works or how it is utilized at colleges … maybe the first step of the office is to clarify to the students what their role has been and what their values are,” she said.

Luo, who is a member of the recently appointed Ad Hoc Committee on Wellbeing, Belonging, and Social Life, described the committee as one of several spaces on campus that seeks to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students despite potential threats incurred by changes to national policies.

“I think it’s fitting … that we’re creating this extra measure for students and faculty to make our space safe, sort of like a countermeasure to the Trump administration and things like Title IX [changes],” Luo said.

Interim Title IX Fellow Raven Bennett works closely with Harris to organize workshops, events, and training sessions on topics such as bystander intervention and supporting survivors. She said that the Title IX staff will continue to plan and host these events in spite of changes to national policy.

“We are always organizing these events with the aim to prevent sexual violence or support survivors. Regardless of any changes in Title IX, we will continue to provide programming with that aim,” Bennett said.

She urged members of the community to attend a new training series centered on sexual health and violence prevention topics called Training Tuesdays.

“I highly recommend that community members attend these trainings because it is on all of us to strive to make this community a safer, more inclusive place,” Bennett said.

In her email, Smith summarized the college’s commitment to violence prevention, safety, and inclusion.

“The college recognizes that all who live, work, and learn on our campus are responsible for ensuring that the community is free from discrimination based on sex or gender, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other forms of sexual misconduct. These behaviors threaten our learning, living, and work environments; we are actively working towards fostering a violence-free community,” she wrote.

The Title IX office will inform community members of any additional changes to national Title IX guidance or policy.

While the future of Title IX on college campuses is uncertain, Swarthmore says it will continue to enact policies that reflect principles such as equality and fairness.

Is America Really a Democracy?

in Columns/Opinions/The Fan Letter by

Despite one’s political leanings, President Trump’s election is a phenomenon in need of an explanation. How did Donald Trump, a businessman of no experience with public policy, become the leader of the free world? More specifically, how did he lie his way to the presidency?

Some, as exemplified by Kellyanne Conway’s justification of “alternative facts,” attempt to rationalize Trump’s apparent lies by attacking the “elitist liberal establishment” that holds conservatives to an impossible standard. Others contend that Trump’s claims are not meant to be taken literally. Cornell University Professor Anna Katharine Mansfield, for example, recently argued in the Washington Post that Trump is delivering a different kind of truth: “emotional truth” that captures the frustration many Trump supporters feel. She claimed this kind of truth cannot be discredited by facts and evidence.

Instead of treating Trump’s lies as just another form of democratic discourse, why can’t we admit that American democracy is broken? What is a democracy when its participants cannot observe the basic laws of logic and reason, when slogan shouting has replaced thoughtful deliberation?

As a citizen of China, manipulation of facts and logic is not foreign to me. Our history is replete with examples where defiance of reason has led to spectacular policy failures. The Great Leap Forward, a Mao-initiated campaign that aimed to “reach Britain and surpass America” (Ganying Chaomei) in domestic production within 20 years, led to the most devastating famine in human history. According to the University of Hong Kong historian Frank Dikötter, the death toll of 45 million people was almost comparable to that of the Second World War.

My grandmother was a survivor. She used to tell me that in order to reach Mao’s goal of doubling steel production, her fellow villagers would set up “backyard furnaces” and melt cooking pots, thinking that somehow low-quality iron could thus be transformed into high-quality steel. Villages competed to grow and harvest unrealistic quantities of crops, sometimes by fraudulently combining crops from several different fields. When the famine hit, food was much more difficult to come by for a big family like hers. Malnutrition was pervasive; some were so starved that their bodies started to bloat, like balloon animals filled with body fluid. I was 10 when she told me that story. It is a gruesome reminder that grand designs must always be grounded in reality. Otherwise, people die.

Is America really a democracy? Philosopher Elizabeth Anderson argues that democracy is not equivalent to “majority rule,” where even the basest of desires and prejudices deserve satisfaction when enough people have them. Instead, democracy has to be deliberative, which can only happen when citizens and their representatives come together and converse on the basis of reason and facts.

Trump’s popularity stems partly from his many outlandish promises that, not unlike Mao’s, he has no chance of fulfilling. His racist and xenophobic messages represent not the exception but the rule of American politics, which rewards manipulation of emotion more than honest discussion of what’s best for the people. Instead of offering realistic solutions to the problems his supporters face, Trump the politician does what most before him did: concoct the perfect lie and hope everyone believes it is the truth.

Letter to the Editor: Help us reclaim our country

in Letter to the Editor/Opinions by

Dear class of 2017:

When my Class of 1967 was getting ready to graduate, we paid no attention to the class of 1917, which was then celebrating its 50th reunion. To the extent we thought about them at all, they were just old farts. But if we had asked, they could have told us about Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, progressive in every way but race, the horrors of World War I, or the post-war Red Scare, courtesy of our own A. Mitchell Palmer (class of 1891).

You probably think we’re old farts too, although, perhaps, you imagine the ‘60s as a rush of revolution fueled by sex, drugs, and rock & roll. In fact, we’re not very different than you. We came to Swarthmore in September 1963, shortly after the March on Washington at the end of August, which some of us attended. The campus buzzed with civil rights our first year. Scores of students went to jail in Chester in the first northern demonstrations. Later, there was a debate between two seniors – Carl Wittman (dead these many years) and Jed Rakoff (now a Federal judge in New York) – over the proper role, if any, of violence in the movement.

Schools outdid one another in sponsoring civil rights conferences. In one, at Connecticut College in New London, senior Mike Meeropol showed up with his guitar, belting out songs. I didn’t know anything about him at the time but remember his saying, “I’m from Swarthmore, and I’m proud of it.” 

Back then, we had Collection every Thursday in Clothier, and students were required to attend. A speaker one Thursday was a South African official (perhaps the country’s UN representative). We loathed apartheid, but it didn’t even occur to us to demand that he be barred from speaking. Instead, we demonstrated outside Clothier, so he would be sure to see us when he was going in. One of the signs said, “Free Speech Yes/Apartheid No.”

Yes, things swirled. One Friday in November, though, everything stopped. On November 22, I was talking to upperclassman Jack Riggs in his room in Wharton when Mickey Herbert, a friend from high school, burst in and yelled “The President’s been shot!” My parents remembered where they were when they heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and your generation probably remembers where you were on 9/11. The assassination of JFK was our 9/11.

The war in Vietnam began under President Kennedy, and he may – or may not – have ended the war had he lived. Certainly Lyndon Johnson didn’t, and thousands of Americans and Vietnamese were dying. And unlike the wars you have known, many of our casualties had been drafted. So, men in college had a special reason to be skeptical, and men and women protested the war.

But we weren’t always marching. We listened – and danced— to  great music. The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan our first year, and “Satisfaction” hit the summer of ’65. Early on, Swarthmore had a folk festival, but it was supplanted by one featuring rock, and the Jefferson Airplane appeared at the rock festival on the group’s first East Coast tour. Finally, on the eve of our graduation, “Sergeant Pepper” came out.

There was no “Saturday Night Live” in our era. But the Smothers Brothers made their debut early in ’67, lampooning pomposity and resolutely anti-war. Blacklisted for 15 years, Pete Seeger came on to sing “Big Muddy” (“we were neck deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on”). We knew who he was singing about.

Perhaps the class of 2017 has already been asked to decide on a class gift, maybe an oak to be planted or a bench to sit on. Our class gift was a protest. In our time, the college still had what was called the “sex rule,” a seldom enforced edict that forbade coupling by students on pain of expulsion. The rarity of its invocation did not make it any less troubling.

So we decided that our class gift would be the abolition of the sex rule. Of course, we lacked the power actually to abolish it, and then we left. But if you never heard of the sex rule, maybe you should thank the old farts in the class of ‘67.

I’m writing this in early March, just after President Trump’s first address to Congress. It’s too early to see how bad things will be – for example, whether the Republicans will fulfill their pledge to gut Obamacare, which brought healthcare to millions, or whether deportations will skyrocket. But it’s certainly not too early to fight to reclaim our country. We geezers are going to spend our retirement doing that, and we’d appreciate some help from you younger folks.

Sincerely,

Doug Huron ‘67

Jews must stand with Muslims

in Campus Journal by

On March 6, President Trump signed his second executive order pertaining to a travel ban, which bars migrants from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan from entering the United States. Iraq was removed from the first travel ban, prior to its overturning those traveling from there will still be subjected to supplementary security procedures before permitted entry.

Although this ban was frozen just last night by a federal judge in Hawaii, the fact that it is the second ban targeting predominately Muslim countries is just one reflection of underlying prejudices the oval office unfairly perpetuates. This, coupled with the pre-existing culture of ignorance surrounding the Muslim faith has normalized a set of behaviors that directly contradicts the ideals of non-discriminatory freedoms for which basic human kindness should stand.  

The hijab has become a target for violence and racial slurs, mosques are routinely defaced, and peaceful Americans are continuously classified as terrorists. In 2016, the year that saw Trump’s rise to political influence, anti-Muslim hate crimes surged 67 percent, reaching an unprecedented level of violence not seen since the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Along with the spike in Islamophobia, anti-Semitic acts have recently been making headlines. According to the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, the first two months of 2017 saw over 100 bomb threats against Jewish community centers, schools, and other institutions. This frightening statistic, combined with the recent desecrations of Jewish gravestones, proves that anti-Semitism is alive and well in the United States.

Our president may claim to be a friend to the Jews, but the faction of extremists he has emboldened through his candidacy are clearly not. Additionally, members of Trump’s cabinet have openly expressed frightening anti-semitic views on multiple occasions.   

Last Monday alone, the JCC reported that 31 more threats were reported against Jewish-affiliated centers, and a gunshot was fired through the window of an Indiana synagogue during a Hebrew school class.

The reaction to these events was a slew of tweets from Muslim Americans showing their support for the Jewish people, condemning the violence, and offering their services in protection of our synagogues and graveyards. One such tweet came from Tayyid Rashid, a former member of the Marine Corps who vowed to “stand guard” at Jewish institutions if necessary, proclaiming that “Islam requires it.”  

Although these acts of violence are horrifying, this outpouring of support from Muslims for the Jewish community exemplifies this country’s best attributes: the ability for people to reach across lines that traditionally divide us to help each other, and to view each other as friends despite our differences.

In light of the travel bans, it is imperative that we as Jews stand with Muslims against this onslaught of religion-based discrimination that we know all too well.

In the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Jews and Muslims in the Middle East are programed to hate each other, taught to see each other as the enemy.  However, in America, we are bound together by a shared endurance of persecution based on religion and a common understanding of fear. It is for these reasons that we should be each other’s greatest allies and the first to step in when injustices arise. College campuses can function well as incubators for generating this alliance.

The Holocaust began with words, words that evolved over a ten-year period from hostility to statelessness to violence to mass murder. I do not pretend to predict the future and have no idea how far this discriminatory behavior will go, but regardless, it is imperative that we put a stop to it before the potential for the unfathomable becomes a reality once more. Morally obtrusive words cannot seep into our policies without detection and immediate protest.

American Jews, starting with those of us at Swarthmore, have an obligation to stand up to this Muslim ban because we know the horrors that stem from complicity. We have a responsibility to hold those in power accountable for their actions, because we know the horrors that stem from silence. Sitting idly by and watching horrific promises to persecute people on the basis of religion has never been an option for us. Just because we are not the ones personally affected by the ban does not permit us to be passive. Being on the front lines of this fight isn’t an option — it’s a necessity.

Recent executive actions create campus uncertainties

in Around Campus/News by

 

After President Trump’s Jan. 27 executive orders halted travel to and from seven Muslim-majority countries, members of the campus community responded. President Valerie Smith and administrative deans reasserted the college’s vow to protect all students and faculty by standing in firm opposition to the anti-immigration and anti-Muslim policies. International and Muslim students affected by the orders have sought advice from administration, and have had to alter plans and make new ones in response to the travel restrictions.

Muslim Students Association board member Yusuf Qaddura ’20 had planned on returning to his home in Lebanon over the summer. But following the orders, Qaddura realized this might not be possible. He said that with the heightened risk of traveling to the Middle East on a nonimmigrant visa, he will likely have to stay in the United States.

“I’m okay with not going back to my home country,” he expressed. “I’ll get used to it … even if it comes to not going back in the next three years.”

With the question of whether he will be able to go home at the end of the semester looming over him, Qaddura has had to apply to summer internships and jobs late in the application season.

“I’m now stressed because I have all sorts of applications over my head,” he expressed.

The anti-immigration orders, according to the New York Times, affect people who are currently in the U.S. on temporary visas and would normally be able to travel back home and re-enter the country. The order entails a 90-day suspension of immigrant and nonimmigrant admission from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen into the U.S. Although a federal judge in Seattle ruled to suspend the orders on Jan. 31, President Trump has since appealed the decision, according to reports by CNN. This means an uncertain future for students like Qaddura.

“We’re concerned about whether the ban is going to be extended after three months, or if it’s going to be extended into more countries,” Qaddura said.

In an official statement emailed to staff and students on Jan. 30, President Valerie Smith affirmed the college’s commitment to ensuring the safety of all members of the community in times of increased threat. She outlined a series of measures the college has taken, led by the Office of International Student Services, to reach out to affected students and faculty.

International students services director Jennifer Marks-Gold summarized these measures over email. According to Marks-Gold, OISS has investigated student lists to determine if any students are in the banned countries. At this time, there are no incoming or enrolled students either residing or studying abroad in the seven countries.

“OISS has and will continue to advise and support students about staying safe,” Marks-Gold stated.

She also affirmed that OISS will work to provide housing for students who cannot go home over breaks and during the summer as one initiative to support students affected by the ban.

“While [these students] are barred from travel, we encourage them to keep in contact with their family and friends back home and if we can help them do that in anyway, our office will provide these services,” Marks-Gold continued.

Qaddura hopes that the administration will do more to assist the unique situations of international students in the coming months.

“From what I’ve heard, I’m just being treated like any other student trying to get housing this summer,” he said.

Marks-Gold reasserted the college’s pledge to be a sanctuary for all members of the community.

She affirmed that the college will not disclose the immigration status of students and faculty members.

“We do not have to release information unless a warrant/subpoena is issued. We will continue to protect our students at all times,” Marks-Gold stated.

Colleges and universities across the country have come out with similar statements, reassuring campus members that they will refuse to disclose such information. The University of Michigan, for example, made headlines on Jan. 28 when it announced its intention to maintain the privacy of this information.

On the evening of Thursday, Feb. 2, students and faculty packed into the Intercultural Center for a panel discussion for Swatties affected by the anti-immigration orders. The panel was one initiative of the college to support members of the community affected by the orders.

The panel, composed of Muslim student advisor Umar Abdul Rahman, associate professor of sociology Lee Smithey, and Philadelphia area immigration attorney John Vandenberg, addressed a number of issues on a spectrum from technical to personal, covering topics such as H-1B sponsorship and the impact of the orders on the Muslim community.

Vandenberg urged international students to contact OISS with concerns, and remarked on the climate of unease surrounding their situations.

“I can’t tell you not to be anxious … If I were in the shoes of international students, I’d think, ‘why now?’,” he said.

At the discussion, Vandenberg briefed attendees on the ban and the subsequent judicial decision to block it. He also overviewed the process of obtaining an H-1B visa for non-immigrant students hoping to work in the United States. He explained that immigration law changes faster than any other area of law, so he predicts that there will likely be changes to the H-1B program during the Trump administration. He urged international students to speak with Marks-Gold to ensure that they apply for employment authorization and visas on time.

“It’s kind of a brave new world we’re living in now,” Vandenberg said, acknowledging the partisan overtones of the ban, which have stemmed from a major shift in the political agenda under a new administration.

Smithey expressed a similar view.

“We really don’t know where we’re at in this moment on the technical side of things and on political, racial, and ethnic fronts,” he remarked.

Even so, Smithey urged students to protest. He cited a statistic from Dr. Erica Chenoweth and Dr. Maria J. Stephan’s book, “Why Civil Resistance” Works that claims only three and a half percent of a population engaged in nonviolent civil resistance is required to overthrow a regime, a figure equivalent to 11 million Americans. In his opinion, one important route to opposing the executive orders is through large-scale peaceful protest.

“This is a mobilization and organization problem,” Smithey said, arguing that an authoritarian administration can be reined in through strategic nonviolent resistance.

Rahman elaborated on the new administration’s treatment of Muslims and immigrants.

“What’s really troublesome is the rhetoric,” he observed, referring to President Trump’s comments about Islam.

Rahman spoke on the parallels between Muslim oppression and other forms of oppression throughout American history, encouraging attendees to read Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

“There can be some discriminatory policies…equal protection doesn’t apply to immigrants,” Rahman noted, arguing that the nature of immigration policy in the U.S. has allowed for implicit discrimination against Muslims in this most recent policy.

Vandenberg echoed this sentiment.

“I do feel comfortable calling it a Muslim ban,” he said with regards to the executive order.

Qaddura believes the ban is a symptom of a broader misconception of Islam.

“These terrorists groups are not representing the true essence of the Islamic religion,” he stated, noting the widespread misunderstanding of the Islamic practice of jihad. “The Islamic religion tries to spread peace and love.”

Qaddura has found a space through the Muslim Students Association to gather with others in this tumultuous time.

“MSA is like a home for Muslim students on campus … we speak with each other, calm each other emotionally,” he said.

Smithey noted the psychological function of large protests and gatherings for building confidence and mitigating anxiety through collective action.

“Figuring out ways to manage our fear is going to be immensely important,” he stressed.

For many, the difficulty of returning home will come at too great a risk. In an official statement, Smith advised community members from the seven designated countries to suspend plans for international travel. Marks-Gold advised students from these countries who are traveling within the U.S. to bring all identification papers with them. Vandenberg recommended that international students and students enrolled under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program speak to an experienced immigration attorney before traveling abroad. He also urged caution to DACA students with plans to study abroad due to the risk of Advance Parole being suspended while they are spending a semester in a study abroad program. Advance Parole permits those without a valid immigrant visa to re-enter the country after travelling abroad.

“DACA students know that any day it could be over. These students are highly motivated, and they know the risk,” Vandenberg said of the work ethic of DACA students amidst an uncertain future for the program.

Rahman described reading an email from a local mosque that warned any Muslim person who is not a U.S. citizen, including those who are legal permanent residents, against traveling under the current orders. This applies to Muslim non-citizens who are not from the seven banned countries as well.

“It’s really something unprecedented,” he expressed.

Smithey share a similar outlook.

“We’re two weeks in, and it’s going to be a long road,” he said.

Smith concluded her email statement with an affirmation of the values of social justice and diversity core to Swarthmore.

“As a nation and as a campus community, we are in unchartered waters with the new administration,” Smith wrote. “The stakes have never been higher, and our commitment to these values has never been more resolute.”

The future remains uncertain for international and Muslim students and for faculty affected by the ban. Yet the campus community is undivided in its commitment to upholding social justice and protecting each member of the community as the country heads into turbulent waters.

Coping with Trump’s presidency

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

We unlocked the door with our twisted imagination. Beyond it was a dimension with sounds, sights, and perspectives that we had never seen before it. Shadows descended upon our senses and judgment to nullify any real substance, and since November of last year we’ve been living in a 21st century Twilight Zone. Most people on this campus didn’t expect Trump to win the presidency. I was one of them; in my mind, I was convinced that the America that I knew growing up, despite its contentious and problematic history, always strove for progress and inclusion. The country wouldn’t, in the span of an election, voluntarily decide to go back to the America of the 1950s. Although in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was with the outcome. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia are the daughters of bigotry and hatred. They’ve been woven into the fabric of America since its tortured beginning. I knew this already, so I don’t understand why I’ve been so infuriated by Trump’s presidency.

It’s been about two-and-a-half weeks since his inauguration, but each day feels like an eternity. Each day he (or maybe Steve Bannon at this point) declares a new executive order from his little box of horrors. From reinstating the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines to instructing federal agencies to weaken Obamacare, he’s already shown complete disregard for the communities that are most vulnerable. Since his inauguration, he’s signed more than twenty executive actions. While he’s been busy turning D.C. on its head, I’ve been trying to ignore him but to no avail. Whether it be on TV or on the internet, I’m frequently stressed out as the consequences of his actions loom over me like the clouds did the day after he won the election.

With the prospect of declaring my major relatively soon, applying for research and study abroad opportunities, and dealing with back-to-back 8:30 classes for a heavy course load, Swarthmore has been difficult for me. Maintaining mental health takes just as much work as maintaining physical health and the last thing I needed was to get enraged over something which I have no control over. There’s a limit to how much you can react angrily on Facebook. Besides, at this point nothing that he says or does really surprises me.

That changed about a week ago when I20 hosted the Immigration Panel Discussion regarding the possible repercussions as a result of his executive orders changing the H1B/H1B1/work visa programs. As a natural-born citizen, I was privileged about not having to worry about this, so I didn’t go to the Immigration Panel Discussion. In retrospect, I’m ashamed that I didn’t go since shortly afterwards I realized for every problem that didn’t directly affect me, it would affect someone I knew. He/She/They would have to carry that burden with them, only for the cycle of fear and anxiety to repeat itself each day. There’s a difference between dedicating time to yourself and being selfish, and I’ve erred on the wrong side for too long.

Of course, Swatties already know about the multiple ways to resist Trump’s fascism: protest, call your senators, donate to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, etc. and yes those are all wonderful courses of action to take. However, there’s something else that I want to suggest for those who are currently afraid of our increasingly uncertain future.

I asked a good friend of mine how he was going to live through Trump’s presidency and his response stunned me. Even though he firmly believes everyone should have and should continue to fight for equal rights, we can’t expect to live the same life as those with privilege do and we have to reconcile with that. My grandparents who witnessed the Civil Rights Movement believed that one day we’d live in a more equitable and just society. They carried that hope with them until they passed away, gave that same hope to my parents who in turn passed it on to me. Whenever all feels lost, through this hope I find the strength to persevere. Hopefully, someday my future children and grandchildren can find the same solace. Regardless for now, I suggest that there are two actions you should perform:

Find Joy. It doesn’t matter how but this is important. Whether it be through your friends and family or socializing, making it a priority to find joy in your life is one of the greatest acts of self-love that you can do for yourself.

Be content in who you are and live your life. No matter what Trump does, he can’t determine how far you go or the dreams you make for yourself. The fact that you exist and there can be no other human being like you is proof of your uniqueness. Just by doing what you already do on a daily basis is the ultimate form of resistance and signals how powerful and indomitable you already are.

The next four years will be difficult for sure, but that doesn’t mean your life has to be made any worse. Whatever you decide to do, I hope that you can find your own peace and happiness.

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