Many faculty members and universities around the U.S. are reacting to the threat to academic freedom posed by the arbitrary temporary ban on students and scholars from countries with Muslim majorities.
My own University of Richmond, founded by Baptists (it is no longer affiliated), had an enlightened view of religious liberty as a foundation for education, welcoming students of all religious persuasions or none, promising equal justice and equal consideration. That was in 1830.
Our president, Ron Crutcher, released this statement a few hours ago:
I share the concerns expressed by many members of our Richmond community about the executive order issued by President Trump on Friday that targets refugees and immigrants from seven countries in Africa and the Middle East. Such exclusion based on national origin or religious beliefs is contrary to American ideals and threatens the mission of higher education.
We at Richmond are proudly part of a global community that invites ideas and people from all corners of the world. Each year, one in ten students at the University is an international student, and our educational model ensures that the majority of students spend at least one semester studying outside the United States, engaging with the complexities of global citizenship and bringing fresh perspectives back to our campus and classrooms when they return. The work of our staff and faculty crosses national boundaries, and their partners in scholarly and creative endeavors live and work around the world. We are nourished and inspired by the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives brought together in our intellectual community.
While the legal and political situation is unfolding, we are committed to supporting affected members of our community and collaborating with other academic organizations to ensure that universities in the United States are able to sustain their vital role in linking the people and ideas of the world. Our University General Counsel, Shannon Sinclair, is following the situation closely and working with other members of the senior leadership team to ensure that members of our community have the best available information about the effects of this order on their lives and scholarship during this time of uncertainty. We have long had in place a process for supporting students who cannot go home due to political or other reasons, and that process will expand as needed in response to this changing landscape. We welcome any questions you may have about specific challenges that this new environment poses to your ability to travel, work, or study. A list of contacts is provided at the bottom of this message.
Just a few miles from our campus, an historic marker and museum celebrate the role that Virginians played in establishing the principles of religious liberty so central to American values. On our own campus, Virginia Baptists founded a University fully aware that their own religious tradition had been seen in previous generations as a dangerous force. Thus, the University’s first president declared that “pupils of every creed and of no creed” would be welcomed into our community and “treated with equal justice and consideration.” Each generation at Richmond has worked to fulfill more completely the promise of those words. Today that spirit of welcome is evident at the University and in our statement of shared values. Our educational mission depends upon the free exchange of ideas and a shared commitment to welcoming those who seek to live and learn within our communities. I look forward to working with all of you to realize and defend these central tenets of our work.
Ronald A. Crutcher
Political protesting should generally be a private affair, done on one’s own time and dime. Students should not be expected to listen to a professor’s pet peeves and rants about economic or political policies—even when they appear highly unethical. Debates about such topics should be driven by student research and discussion of both sides.
That said, sometimes the very nature of the institution itself is at risk, and that does require a formal response of faculty and administration. This may be such a time.