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AGB Alert: Issues for Consideration by Trustees and Presidents Related to the March 6, 2017 U.S. President's Executive Order

Mar 10, 2017

On March 6, 2017, President Trump issued a new Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, effectively revoking the previous order issued on January 27, 2017, and instituting new policies and restrictions. Because this new executive order differs from the previous version in a number of significant ways, AGB is providing trustees and campus leaders with this new information to enhance awareness and understanding.

There are several key differences contained in the administration’s new executive order issued on Tuesday:

  • The order imposes a 90-day ban on the issuance of new visas to individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The list of countries affected by this ban no longer includes Iraq.
  • Individuals who currently hold a valid U.S. visa or U.S. Green Card are exempted from this temporary travel ban.
  • The order continues the 120-day halt on admitting refugees, but lifts indefinite exclusions for Syrian refugees.
  • The order removes a provision granting preferential status to persecuted minorities based on religion.
  • Dual nationals who have passports from non-designated countries will be able to enter the U.S. (for example, if an individual is a dual Iranian/British citizen, they will be able to enter with their British passport).
  • Unlike the first order, the new order clarifies that U.S. agencies will review case-by-case exceptions.
  • These policies go into effect March 16, giving relevant agencies ten days to prepare for the rollout.

Despite the changes from the previous version, this new executive order is still expected to face legal challenges. The American Civil Liberties Union and several other organizations have stated that they again will move to block the new policy in court—several states (Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, New York, and Massachusetts) already filed suit in federal court against the order.

While some might consider the new executive order to be an improvement on the original, particularly by exempting current visa holders and U.S. Green Card holders from these restrictions, it continues to create similar and wide-ranging issues for institutions of higher education. These issues include everything from international student recruitment, recruitment of international faculty, revenue and budget implications, international exchange programs, and institutional insurance, to the humanitarian needs of international students and faculty with family living abroad.

AGB is hopeful that the new exemptions for current U.S. visa holders, the language permitting case-by-case exceptions, and the ten-day delay in the rollout of these regulations will allow for clarity in implementation and thus lessen confusion for the many international students and scholars engaged with colleges and universities in the United States.

AGB remains steadfast in its belief that international students and scholars offer vital contributions to our colleges and universities. As mentioned in our previous alert, the nation’s ability to remain competitive in an increasingly global marketplace depends on the exchange of knowledge, innovation, and technological advances that often derive from the scholarship of people from all nations. These executive orders, although different in content, together send an unwelcoming message to international scholars and students who are considering study and research in the United States, and may prevent our institutions—and our nation—from experiencing the great benefit of cross-cultural engagement and exchange.

Board members and institutional leaders must continue to engage in conversations with colleagues and their campus communities to clarify the implications of the restrictions contained in this executive order.

Questions to consider

Institutional mission, strategic planning, and board oversight

  • Is the executive order impacting the institution’s ability to fulfill its mission? How will the order affect the institution’s short- and long-term goals?
  • Has the institution conducted a full inventory of functions and programs that involve international activity—including research projects, scholarly exchange, student enrollment, student exchange, and student/faculty recruitment?
  • How is institutional oversight conducted for functions and programs involving international activity? Is there a designated oversight authority at the executive level, or is it dispersed among other administrators? Are international programs regularly considered in the institution’s enterprise risk management assessment?
  • Does the institution have alternative plans in place if courses cannot be offered or special initiatives/programs cannot continue without international scholars/students?

Fiscal impact

  • If international recruitment and programs are important components of institutional revenue, how will the executive order impact the budget (e.g., revenue losses from sources such as tuition, research funding, and conferences/programs)?
  • Is the executive order hindering student recruitment—particularly for institutions with significant foreign student enrollment, student exchange, or study abroad programs?
  • Is the executive order impacting institutional insurance policies—particularly those related to international travel?

Well-being of campus members at home and abroad

  • How are current students and faculty affected?
  • Does the institution have a system in place to track students and scholars affected by the executive order? Are institutional leaders able to communicate with and provide guidance to these individuals?
  • Is the executive order affecting institution-sponsored travel?
  • Could public reaction to the executive order lead to campus unrest, and have institutional leaders developed contingency plans for such events?

Additional resources

Moving forward

AGB will continue to monitor the changing situation and impact of this executive order and other related policies on colleges and universities. We will express the concerns of our members, as necessary, to the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security.

We welcome questions, comments, and examples of impact from our members. For additional information and to follow AGB’s response to this decision, please contact Tim McDonough, AGB vice president for government and public affairs, at 202.296.8400 or messages@agb.org.

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