Petition calls for more explicit opposition to travel ban from UConn

Students and faculty gathered on the steps of the Student Union on Feb. 1 to protest President Donald Trump's recent ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Two professors have launched a petition calling for UConn President Herbst to more explicitly oppose the order. (Jon Sammis/The Daily Campus)

Two mathematics professors have launched a petition calling for University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst to more explicitly oppose President Donald Trump’s recent executive order banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Damir Dzhafarov and Iddo Ben-Ari, both assistant professors of mathematics at UConn, began an “Open Letter to Susan Herbst” in petition against Trump’s executive order. The letter is in the form of a sharable Google Doc at the moment so supporters can sign their names. Currently there are almost 100 signatures, according to the letter.

The petition comes days after Herbst sent an email to the UConn community stating that she had asked UConn Vice President for Global Affairs Daniel Weiner to assemble a working group to address the implications the ban will have on the university’s international community and offer them information and guidance.

“We want to preface this by saying that we applaud President Herbst's statement from Saturday, which was issued when we just began collecting signatures,” Dzhafarov and Ben-Ari said. “Her promptness shows a real commitment to the kinds of protections our letter is calling for.”

The letter expresses the concerns of those who signed, demanding that the university “stand up for what is right, by unconditionally condemning President Trump’s executive order, and committing itself to protecting those members of its community impacted by it,” according to the letter.

UConn’s international student population represents 109 different countries, with 1,400 being undergraduate students and one in four being graduate students. Many faculty and visiting scholars from all of UConn’s campuses also come from all over the world, according to Herbst’s email statement.

In her statement, Herbst wrote that the university’s “large and diverse population – including our international students – is one of our greatest strengths as a top research university,” and that, like other universities across the nation, UConn is working to understand how President Trump’s order will affect international students, faculty and visitors traveling during the duration of the order, according to Herbst’s email statement.

But the letter and those who support it demand a clearer, more well-defined commitment to oppose President Trump’s executive order. While actions do speak louder than words, words still matter, and at this early stage in the development of the recent order, we should be “unequivocal about where we stand,” Dzhafarov and Ben-Ari said.   

“We believe UConn’s response could and should be stronger still, in line with many of our peer institutions, as well as with our state lawmakers,” Dzhafarov and Ben-Ari said. “In particular, we believe the university’s statement should carry an explicit declaration of opposition to the executive order.”

Dzhafarov and Ben-Ari planned to re-send the letter to President Herbst following the ResisTrump Rally that happened on campus yesterday, according to the letter, but said they will keep the letter open for the time being in order to continue spreading the word and giving interested people the chance to express their support for the university’s statements regarding this issue.

“We invite participation by anyone from the UConn community, which includes, of course, our faculty, students and staff, but also parents, friends and alumni. Our signatories as of now include members across departments, colleges and campuses,” Dzhafarov and Ben-Ari said.

The letter has received support from institutions and organizations around campus, such as the Dodd Center, the Human Rights Institute, the Humanities Institute, the Office of the Vice President for Global Affairs and President Susan Herbst herself, Dzhafarov and Ben-Ari said.

“We look forward to working together to coordinate efforts, and identify concrete steps we as a university can take to protect our values and our community, and to limit the effect of this executive order on them,” Dzhafarov and Ben-Ari said. “This is the beginning of a long struggle, and we need to hit the ground running.”

If interested, anyone can sign the petition by visiting http://tinyurl.com/jxg4mtt or by scanning the QR Code on this publication, courtesy of Dzhafarov and Ben-Ari.


Molly Stadnicki is the associate news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at molly.stadnicki@uconn.edu.