The president of McMaster University in Hamilton, Patrick Deane, has written a public letter speaking out in criticism of the United States’ administration’s attempts to ban citizens from Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. Deane says that the very idea of the university is based on an acceptance of diversity and an openness to differences in thought and the free movement of peoples.
“Universities have therefore a fundamental and essential obligation to oppose bigotry and closed-mindedness in all its forms,” says Deane, who calls the US travel ban an example of parochialism and protectionism which stand as “enemies of enlightenment.”
A reported nine per cent of McMaster’s student body are international students, many from the seven countries singled out by the travel ban, and Deane says his university has 25 to 27 faculty members from those countries as well. “We have, for example, approximately 100 students from Iran so they are obviously affected by this, and a number of them have family members in the U.S. so we are seeing impact that way,” says Deane to the CBC.
In the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order barring entry to travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries (soon thereafter blocked by a federal appeals court), academic groups both in the US and Canada issued statements decrying the ban. The American Association of Universities president Mary Sue Coleman stated that the administration’s new order has already caused damage both to students affected by the ban and to the US’s ability to attract students and scholars from other countries, something Coleman said is “vital to our economy and the national interest.”
Paul Davidson of Universities Canada, the advocacy group for Canada’s universities, also spoke out, saying that Universities Canada is “deeply concerned” about the travel ban and how it would affect scholars and students in Canada from interacting with their colleagues south of the border. “This is not just a political and rhetorical statement to offer support to academics around the world, it’s about students, faculty and staff on Canadian campuses now,” said Davidson.
Canadian post-secondaries are preparing for an enrolment boost from the threat of a travel ban, however, as applications from American students as well as students and scholars from Muslim-majority countries are growing. At McMaster, applications from Americans have reportedly increased by 35 per cent this year, while the University of Toronto has seen an almost 82 per cent rise — from 784 last year at this time to 1,425. Randall Martin of the BC Council for International Education says the US action will mean international students will be flocking to Canadian schools.
“We are anticipating a huge upswing in interest (in B.C. schools) after the announcement and implementation of the ban,” said Martin.
The so-called brain gain is no small economic matter. A federal government report last year determined that the overall impact from foreign students on the Canadian economy was $11.4 billion in 2014. “So, this isn’t just nice for our economy, it’s an important part of our economy,” said Davidson. “Our economy needs young, bright people with global connections and there’s lots of capacity in the Canadian university system to absorb these students.”