“I had no clue whether I would be able to go back to the school I like so much, or to see my dear friends there.”
For City University of New York student, Saira Rafiee, this was a troublesome reality she faced traveling back to the U.S. from Iran when President Trump’s executive order blocked her return to campus. USA Today reported that the order, which suspended entry for those who have visas and suspended new visa applications for citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days, affects more than 23,000 students across the country.
While the travel ban may not immediately impact Hesston – there are currently no students from the seven banned countries – it will affect recruitment of students for Fall 2017 and beyond, according to Dave Osborne, Director of International Admissions.
“For example, we had one Sudanese citizen, a Muslim, who was admitted for Fall 2017,” he said. “I sent an email to her on February 2: ‘I continue to have the desire and commitment that someday you will be able to join our Hesston College family.’ She replied on the same day: ‘My passion towards Hesston College is still the same. But, unfortunately, I’ve got to move on and find [a school] elsewhere, since it is near impossible that I can make it to America.”
But that’s not all. Osborne’s had to postpone his dream of helping Syrian refugees attend Hesston. With the assistance of the Institute of International Education (IIE), Osborne’s been researching options.
“I wanted Hesston College to be one of the schools which offer a full tuition scholarship (with the rest of the costs covered by IIE).”
Later this month Osborne will travel to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim populated country. He had hoped to do more recruiting of Indonesian Muslim students. Now he wonders if that’s going to get much more difficult.
“The larger issue for our recruitment of new Muslim students from any country in the world is now one of perception,” he said. “Regardless of country of citizenship, the U.S. may now be perceived by prospective Muslim students as unfriendly, unwelcoming, even discriminatory.”
Andre Swartley, an English faculty who teaches mostly international students, agrees. He says he’s concerned American universities will seefewer international applicants because of our international reputation.
Beyond enrollment, Swartley believes the Trump agenda will have significant cultural repercussions.
“I am concerned about new cultural and political roadblocks a Trump presidency is already creating in people’s ability to form cross-cultural relationships, which are so essential not only to a well-rounded world view, but also a person’s capacity for empathy.”
That’s why Swartley, Osborne and other staff members are making it a priority that every student feels welcome and safe at Hesston College. Osborne shared this goal with friends on Facebook:
“I want my school, my home, my life to be a Sanctuary School, a Sanctuary Home, a Sanctuary Life – for anyone.”