On Mar. 27, Princeton Advocates for Justice, an “intersectional undergraduate student coalition of 25 Princeton University student groups advocating for the advancement of basic human rights” that formed in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election, released a letter signed by 32 student groups and 600 members of the University community urging University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 to officially oppose Trump’s newest executive order barring entry to citizens of six Middle Eastern countries and limiting refugee entrance.

400 undergraduates, 92 graduate students, 51 faculty members, 7 post-docs, and 17 staff members signed the online petition to oppose President Trump’s executive orders, and additionally urged the University to join the “Every Campus a Refuge” network. Members of this network sponsor a refugee family by partnering with a local resettlement agency.

Eisgruber previously led 47 other college and university presidents by drafting a letter sent to President Trump, urging him to “rectify or rescind” his Jan. 27 executive order forbidding entry into the U.S. by travelers from Iraq, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen for 90 days and from Syria indefinitely. Trump’s second travel ban, signed March 6 and meant to take effect March 16, bans people from Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Libya from entering the U.S. for 90 days and bars all refugees from coming into the country for 120 days.

Ramzie Fathy ’20, a PAJ organizer and co-president of Princeton Muslim Advocates for Social Justice and Individual Dignity, explained that Eisgruber’s condemnation of Trump’s first immigration executive order is not sufficient. “It’s important that the University shows a continued interest in the people it’s supposed to represent,” Fathy said. “Just because it did so once doesn’t mean it can stop in the future.”

Fathy also noted that if the University joined the “Every Campus a Refuge” network, it would show a tangible commitment, and that a condemnation from Eisgruber would lead to change.

“The University has an influence many people aren’t aware of on the national and global scale, so I’m optimistic that University action could change something,” he said. “Our motto calls the University to be open to everyone.”

University Religion professor Jonathan Gold, who signed the PAJ petition, argued that the University’s identity as a liberal arts institution requires political action.

“The petition expresses what a lot of people are feeling: that the liberal arts are about freedom of thought and conscience, diversity and human rights, and we should champion those values,” Gold said. “There aren’t many institutions that seem to be able to champion theses values, and I think President Eisgruber is doing a good job in that way.”

He acknowledged that Eisgruber's words would not be a magic bullet in the political landscape, and argued that he will likely face a continuing battle.

“I’m hopeful that we do have some effect, not just in the day-to-day political competitive arena, but in providing knowledge and support for our values in general,” Gold noted. “There’s not an easy endpoint — the new travel plan is just as much directed as Muslims, just cleaned up a little bit, so I don’t think anything should be accepted as solved.”

"The ban is inherently exclusionary, targeting Muslims based on myths and misconceptions surrounding the religion of Islam. It is important for Eisgruber, as the President and a representative of the University, to show that institutes of higher education reject this policy and stand with those unjustly discriminated against because of their religion or nationality," said Matt Błażejewski '17.

In mid-April, PAJ plans to travel to Washington, D.C., to directly lobby members of Congress and their staff. The group is currently ascertaining what political issues to focus on and plans to split into task forces to specifically target members of Congress.

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