Blogs > Infinity, Limited > Academic opposition to Trump's Muslim ban

Feb 12, 2017

Academic opposition to Trump's Muslim ban

tags: American Historical Association,Donald Trump,Muslim ban,Society for the History of Technology

Getting academics to work together is often, as the old joke goes, like herding cats.  So what did it take to get scores of scientific and academic organizations to act together?  The answer is President Trump’s January 27 blanket banning, now temporarily stayed by court order, certain groups of Muslims from entering the United States.  The objections are both abstract and personal.  From the perspective of the former, travel restrictions on people (who were already vetted by the U.S. government) harm the flow of information and ideas, hurting the economy as well as the advancement of science and technology.  Less abstractly, the order affected nearly 24,000 students, including 273 at my institution, Texas A&M. 

In ascending order are a statement from the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), a superbly historical contribution from the American Historical Association (AHA), and a letter from 180 scientific organizations and institutions focusing on how this ban will harm the United States. 

Statement by the Officers and Executive Council of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) regarding immigration policy changes in the US

The Society for the History of Technology is committed to academic freedom, freedom of expression, and fostering diversity with regard to age, gender, race, ethnicity, nation of origin, physical abilities, sexual orientation, religion, training, and employment. To this end, SHOT affirmatively embraces all who wish to join, participate, and have a voice in our Society. 

The United States Executive Order of January 27, 2017, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into The United States” challenges these core values.  The Society for the History of Technology registers its principled opposition to any blanket travel ban that targets entire countries, covering not only millions of their inhabitants but also numerous others living around the world who happen to have been born in the designated countries. Such bans are impossible to implement in a way that respects basic principles of justice and human rights, and they are profoundly at odds with the reality of our globalized world.

Knowledge creation in the history of technology—as in most intellectual domains—fundamentally depends on international mobility for research and the diffusion and exchange of ideas.  The present travel ban issued by the United States will have a significant and detrimental impact on the ability of SHOT members, students, and colleagues to conduct their research and professional obligations.  Just as worrying are long-term unintended consequences that include diminished international cooperation, loss of trust in the possibility of an open and tolerant global society, and erosion of the many social and economic benefits that flow from the production and exchange of knowledge.

The Officers and Executive Council of the Society for the History of Technology agree with the statement issued by the American Historical Association and urge members to read it at:

The Local Organizing Committee for the SHOT Annual Meeting in Philadelphia in October this year has organized a Round Table on the conference theme Technology, Democracy and Participation.  We urge members to propose similarly pertinent topics to the Program Committee.

With regard to the forthcoming annual meeting the Officers and Executive Council agree that

1.     Registered participants who are denied a visa or entry (even with a visa) to the United States for the meeting will have their registration fees refunded.

2.     If a speaker accepted by the Program Committee is unable to attend the meeting due to their entry to the US being impeded by federal regulations, we undertake to do our best to make alternative arrangements for the speaker to present her or his paper via skype or a similar communications system.

3.     While some participants who can travel freely may be reluctant to attend the meeting if current immigration policies remain in force, we strongly encourage everyone who can to come to Philadelphia.  This will help affirm our determination to remain an international organization in this changed reality and to limit the damage to our Society and its core values. 

 4.   As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization SHOT does not take partisan stands on policy issues.

AHA Condemns Executive Order Restricting Entry to the United StatesJanuary 30, 2017  

The American Historical Association strongly condemns the executive order issued by President Donald J. Trump on January 27 purportedly “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” Historians look first to evidence: deaths from terrorism in the United States in the last fifteen years have come at the hands of native-born citizens and people from countries other than the seven singled out for exclusion in the order. Attention to evidence raises the question as to whether the order actually speaks to the dangers of foreign terrorism.

It is more clear that the order will have a significant and detrimental impact on thousands of innocent people, whether inhabitants of refugee camps across the world who have waited months or even years for interviews scheduled in the coming month (now canceled), travelers en route to the United States with valid visas or other documentation, or other categories of residents of the United States, including many of our students and colleagues.

The AHA urges the policy community to learn from our nation’s history. Formulating or analyzing policy by historical analogy admittedly can be dangerous; context matters. But the past does provide warnings, especially given advantages of hindsight. What we have seen before can help us understand possible implications of the executive order. The most striking example of American refusal to admit refugees was during the 1930s, when Jews and others fled Nazi Germany. A combination of hostility toward a particular religious group combined with suspicions of disloyalty and potential subversion by supposed radicals anxious to undermine our democracy contributed to exclusionist administrative procedures that slammed shut the doors on millions of refugees. Many were subsequently systematically murdered as part of the German “final solution to the Jewish question.” Ironically, President Trump issued his executive order on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Conversely, when refugees have found their way to our shores, the United States has benefited from their talents and energy. Our own discipline has been enriched by individuals fleeing their homelands. The distinguished historian of Germany Hajo Holborn arrived in 1934 from Germany. Gerda Lerner, a major force in the rise of women’s history, fled Austria in 1939. Civil War historian Gabor Boritt found refuge in the United States after participating in the 1956 uprising in Hungary. More recently, immigration scholar Maria Cristina Garcia fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba with her parents in 1961. The list is long and could be replicated in nearly every discipline.

We have good reason to fear that the executive order will harm historians and historical research both in the United States and abroad. The AHA represents teachers and researchers who study and teach history throughout the world. Essential to that endeavor are interactions with foreign colleagues and access to archives and conferences overseas. The executive order threatens global scholarly networks our members have built up over decades. It establishes a religious test for scholars, favoring Christians over Muslims from the affected countries; and it jeopardizes both travel and the exchange of ideas upon which all scholarship ultimately depends. It directly threatens individuals currently studying history in our universities and colleges, as well as our ability to attract international students in the future. It also raises the possibility that other countries may retaliate by imposing similar restrictions on American teachers and students. By banning these nations’ best and brightest from attending American universities, the executive order is likely to increase anti-Americanism among their next generation of leaders, with fearsome consequences for our future national security.

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, like many of his colleagues before and since, did think historically in ways that should inform consideration of President Trump’s executive order. In a 1989 dissent (Skinner v. Railway Executives Association), Justice Marshall observed: “History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in time of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure. The World War II Relocation–camp cases and the Red Scare and McCarthy-era internal subversion cases are only the most extreme reminders that when we allow fundamental freedoms to be sacrificed in the name of real or perceived exigency, we invariably come to regret it.”

This post has been updated to list the following affiliated societies’ endorsement of the above statement:
American Academy of Research Historians of Medieval Spain
American Association for State and Local History
American Society for Environmental History
American Society for Legal History
American Society of Church History
Association for Computers and the Humanities
Association for Israel Studies
Berkshire Conference of Women Historians
Business History Conference
Central European History Society
Chinese Historians in the United States
Committee on LGBT History
Conference on Asian History
Conference on Latin American History
Coordinating Council for Women in History
Disability History Association
Forum on European Expansion and Global Interaction
French Colonial Historical Society
Historical Society for Twentieth Century China
History of Science Society
Hungarian Studies Association
Immigration and Ethnic History Society
International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in History
Labor and Working Class History Association
MARHO: The Radical Historians’ Organization
National Council on Public History
New England Historical Association
North American Conference on British Studies
Organization of American Historians
Pacific Coast Branch, American Historical Association
Rocky Mountain Council of Latin American Studies
Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
Social Science History Association
Social Welfare History Group
Society for Advancing the History of South Asia
Society for Austrian and Habsburg History
Society for French Historical Studies
Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations
Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
Society for Italian Historical Studies
Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing
Society for the History of Children and Youth
Society for the History of Technology (SHOT)
Southern Historical Association
Southern Jewish Historical Society
Toynbee Prize Foundation
Urban History Association
Western Association of Women Historians
Western History Association
World History Association


160+ Science Organizations Urge President to Rescind Immigration Order

Publication date: 

1 February 2017

In a letter to President Donald Trump, the organizations warn that his executive order temporarily barring citizens of seven nations from entering the U.S. will negatively impact the nation’s science and engineering capacity.

As of today, over 160 scientific societies, universities, and other science organizations have signed onto a letter to President Trump warning of harm to the U.S. scientific enterprise as a result of the president’s recent executive order on immigration. Urging him to rescind the order, the organizations say it will block the open flow of scientists and engineers in industry and academia, discourage top international students and scholars from studying and working in the U.S., and reduce science and engineering productivity.

The executive order, which Trump signed on Jan. 27, imposes a 90-day ban on entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven nations -- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Sudan. The order also suspends the admittance of refugees awaiting resettlement in the U.S. for 120 days and indefinitely bars the admittance of Syrian refugees.

According to reports in the media, multiple students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors from affected countries were stranded abroad or detained at airports following the order. Existing scientific collaborations, career plans, and conference attendance have been disrupted. And a number of U.S.-based scientific societies have indicated they may be compelled to hold conferences outside of the U.S. to ensure that all scholars in their field of science are able to attend.

Dear President Trump:

The January 27, 2017, White House Executive Order on visas and immigration has profound implications for diplomatic, humanitarian, and national security interests, in part because of the negative impact on U.S. science and engineering capacity.

The 180 undersigned organizations – representing a broad spectrum of professional scientific, engineering and education societies, national associations, and universities – are deeply concerned that this Executive Order will have a negative impact on the ability of scientists and engineers in industry and academia to enter, or leave from and return to, the United States. This will reduce U.S. science and engineering output to the detriment of America and Americans.

Scientific progress depends on openness, transparency, and the free flow of ideas and people, and these principles have helped the United States attract and richly benefit from international scientific talent. From the Apollo Program and exploring the far reaches of the universe, to advancing biomedical research for curing diseases and harnessing science to build a thriving high-tech sector, the United States is considered a leader in science, education and innovation. In order to remain the world leader in advancing scientific knowledge and innovations, the U.S. science and technology enterprise must continue to capitalize on the international and multicultural environment within which it operates.

The Executive Order will discourage many of the best and brightest international students, scholars, engineers and scientists from studying and working, attending academic and scientific conferences, or seeking to build new businesses in the United States. Implementation of this policy will compromise the United States’ ability to attract international scientific talent and maintain scientific and economic leadership.

Today, we urge the Administration to rescind the Executive Order and we stand ready to assist you in crafting an immigration and visa policy that advances U.S. prosperity and ensures strong borders while staying true to foundational American principles as a nation of immigrants.


American Association for the Advancement of Science AACC International Academy for Eating Disorders Academy for Radiology & Biomedical Imaging Research Acoustical Society of America Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences American Academy of Forensic Sciences American Anthropological Association American Association for Clinical Chemistry American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy American Association for Dental Research American Association of Geographers American Association of Immunologists American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists American Association of Physical Anthropologists American Association of Physicists in Medicine American Association of Physics Teachers American Association for Public Opinion Research American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases American Astronomical Society American Brain Coalition American Chemical Society American College of Neuropsychopharmacology American Dental Education Association American Educational Research Association American Federation for Medical Research American Geophysical Union American Geosciences Institute American Institute of Biological Sciences American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics American Institute of Chemical Engineers American Institute of Physics American Mathematical Society American Meteorological Society American Ornithological Society American Physical Society American Physiological Society American Phytopathological Society American Political Science Association American Psychological Association American Public Health Association American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers American Society of Agronomy American Society of Animal Science American Society of Association Executives American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology American Society for Cell Biology American Society of Civil Engineers American Society for Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology American Society for Horticultural Science American Society for Microbiology American Society of Naturalists American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics American Society of Plant Biologists American Society of Plant Taxonomists American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene American Sociological Association American Statistical Association Archeological Institute of America Associated Universities, Inc. Association for Behavior Analysis International Association of Research Libraries Association of American Medical Colleges Association of American Universities Association of Independent Research Institutes Association for Psychological Science Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Association of Southeastern Biologists Association for Women in Mathematics Behavior Genetics Association Biomedical Engineering Society Biophysical Society Boston University Botanical Society of America Brown University California Institute of Technology Cognitive Science Society Columbia University in the City of New York Computing Research Association Consortium for Ocean Leadership Consortium of Social Science Associations Controlled Release Society Council of Graduate Schools Council on Social Work Education Crop Science Society of America Duke University Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Eating Disorders Research Society Ecological Society of America Entomological Society of America Executive Committee of the American Society of Criminology Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board Foundation for Science and Disability Geological Society of America Genetics Society of America Harvard University Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Institute for Advanced Study Institute of Food Technologists International Association for Dental Research International Society for Computational Biology International Society for Stem Cell Research Johns Hopkins University Law and Society Association Linguistic Society of America Massachusetts Institute of Technology Materials Research Society Mathematical Association of America Michigan State University Microscopy Society of America Midwest Political Science Association National Association of Biology Teachers National Communication Association National Organization of Gay & Lesbian Scientists & Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) National Postdoctoral Association Natural Science Collections Alliance National Science Teachers Association New York University North American Vascular Biology Organization Northeastern University Oklahoma Academy of Science Organization for the Study of Sex Differences Ornithological Council Paleontological Society Population Association of America Princeton University Research!America Rice University Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Seismological Society of America Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine Society for American Archaeology Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Society for Computers in Psychology Society for Conservation Biology North America Society for Developmental Biology Society for Ecological Restoration Society for Economic Botany Society of Experimental Social Psychology Society of General Internal Medicine Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Society for Mathematical Psychology Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology Society for the Neural Control of Movement Society for Neuroscience Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Society for Personality and Social Psychology Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues Society for Social Studies of Science Society for Social Work and Research Society for the Study of Evolution Society for the Study of Reproduction Society of Systematic Biologists Society for Text and Discourse Society of Toxicology Soil Science Society of America Stanford University Stony Brook University The American Phytopathological Society The Gerontological Society of America The Endocrine Society The Michael J. Fox Foundation The Optical Society The Psychonomic Society United States Pharmacopeial Convention University of California System University of Cincinnati University of Iowa University of Michigan University of Pennsylvania Vanderbilt University Vision Sciences Society Washington University in St. Louis Yale University

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