Students, professors object to immigration ban

Posted on Jan 30 2017 - 8:09am by Clara Turnage

Days after newly elected President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring the citizens of several Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States, University of Mississippi professors and alumni are raising money and protesting to show support for Muslim students.

Abigail Meisel, a former professor at the university, began a GoFundMe to fund a full-page ad in the Wednesday edition of The Daily Mississippian. The account met and exceeded its funding goal of $760 in less than a day. More than 45 people donated to the account, including several current and former university professors and students.

“Muslim students at The University of Mississippi are a small fraction of the student population–and they need our support during a frightening time,” reads the GoFundMe page.  Meisel said she would take suggestions on how to spend the extra money.

Several graduate students– many from the English department– held a peaceful protest of the ban on Saturday. Matt Kessler, a student enrolled in the creative writing master’s program, organized the protest.

“These are our brothers and sisters,” Kessler said in reference to those affected by the ban. “This is not what our country is about.”

Students and community members gathered at the Square Saturday to protest the immigration ban. (Photo courtesy: Matt Kessler)

Students and community members gathered at the Square Saturday to protest the immigration ban. (Photo courtesy: Matt Kessler)

The impromptu rally prompted Kessler and others to organize a larger protest this weekend with the help of the university’s College Democrats. Kessler said the date is not yet set for the protest, but details will be announced soon.

The ban affects Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Jon Scott, director of public communications, said there is currently one researcher and 25 students from the affected countries. Scott said he was not aware of any students contacting the Office of Global Engagement in regards to the executive order yet and that no travel problems resulting from the ban have been reported.

In the 2014 report from Institutional, Research, Effectiveness and Planning, all of the students from these countries were graduate students. There are no more recent reports available from the IREP office.

Alexandros Sivvopoulos, a graduate student from Greece and president of the Graduate Student Council, said in an email that though his country was considered safe, “The thought of being turned around at an airport and being called undesirable just because of my ethnicity…is something I would never have expected of this great country.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter addressed the ban Sunday in an email to students.

“I would like to say that I found Chancellor Vitter’s statement to be lukewarm at best,” Sivvopoulos said. “However, I am not sure what even he could do to change the situation as it stands right now.”

Sivvopoulos said he would “very sadly advise anyone to double-think plans to travel back home at the moment until the situation is cleared up.”

Sivvopoulos said it is the community’s responsibility to show support for Muslim students.

“As for the rest of the community, it’s up to all of us here to show that our classmates are just as valuable and just as important, no matter where they come from, from Tupelo and Batesville all the way to Iran and Sudan,” Sivvopoulos said. “We all cheer on the Rebels, even if we do so in different languages. We pray for clemency before finals, even if we might pray to different deities. Are students and professors really those that threaten America?”