YSU Speaks Out Against Immigrant Discrimination

By Sam Phillips

Speakers at an open forum made it clear that Youngstown State University will continue to accommodate international students, faculty and staff in the aftermath of the immigration ban.

The “Impact of the Recent Immigration Ban on Our Academic Programs” discussion was organized by Taci Turel, the advisor of the Muslim Student Association, in response to the ban. About 50 YSU students and faculty attended the forum on Wednesday at Moser Hall.

Although the ban was halted by a federal judge on Feb. 4, Turel said it’s important to discuss the negative effects of it. An e-mail that was sent to the campus community from YSU President Jim Tressel saying the university will support international students was comforting, she said.

YSU Provost Martin Abraham said part of YSU’s strategic plan is to increase globalization and diverse opportunities on campus, and the university will continue to recruit in foreign countries.

“We think giving these students these international experiences, whether it is studying abroad or interacting with someone from another culture is a valuable opportunity as they become better global citizens,” he said.

Abraham said the ban makes faculty hesitate to visit their home countries in case the ban is reinstated, and it limits the experience YSU faculty and students have at international conferences in the U.S.

International scholars may not come to these conferences following the ban, and this limits the ability for the U.S to hold them, Abraham said.

Peter Norris, YSU chemistry professor, hails from Britain and immigrated to the U.S as a young adult to pursue educational and employment opportunities.

“I’m here because the U.S invested in me as a student and as a faculty member,” he said. “You can look around here and see so many different people from different countries who enrich YSU and bring new perspectives.”

Norris said immigrants are becoming nervous about being blocked form the US, so they are going to Canada and bringing their talent there instead.

Turel, who was born in Turkey, said the country has benefitted from ideas and inventions that were brought to the U.S by immigrants.

“A lot of the immigrants who come here bring creativity and innovation, and contribute to our country,” she said. “By preventing certain people from coming here we are also discouraging a lot of the brilliant minds from coming to the United States.”

Turel said some Muslim students have approached her and said they are afraid to speak in their native tongue in public because hate crimes against Muslims have risen in the past couple years.

Ann Gardner, assistant director of Study Abroad programs, said the ban could discourage international students from applying to study and PhD students from seeking employment in the U.S.

Gulay Yazar, president of the Muslim Student Association, said immigrants fear what might come next. She said her 14-year-old daughter is afraid they’ll be removed from the country even though they are naturalized citizens.

“Every day she asks, are we going to be deported, and where will we go,” she said.

Getting to know and understanding people from different cultures is a way to combat the fear stemming from the ban, Yazar said.

YSU has 400 international students, and they along with faculty and staff are advised to contact the International Programs Office if they plan on travelling to their home countries.