Response to letter about UBC and immigration, travel ban

In my last post I pasted a letter written by a number of people at UBC, and sent around to a larger number of people via email for feedback, making suggestions about some things UBC might do in response to the recent travel ban in the U.S. (which has now been put on hold but a new one may be coming out), issues around immigration and refugees, hate speech & violence against certain religious groups, the LGBTQ+ community, and more.

We received a response right away from Pam Ratner, Vice-Provost & Associate Vice-President, International pro tem at UBC. I asked and received permission to post that response here because I thought it would be of interest to many. I want to thank Pam for a quick, thorough, and helpful response!

A number of us are continuing to think about how we might work with others at UBC to address these issues and the students, staff and faculty who are affected by them. If you would like to join us, please email me: c.hendricks@ubc.ca.


Dear Christina, Afsaneh, Jenny, Tammy and Amy.

Thank you for your letter about the recent travel ban imposed via the US President’s executive order (EO), and thank you for writing a thoughtful account of the current situation, and for providing some excellent ideas about how UBC can respond.  Several of your ideas were addressed by the task force, when it was in place, and by others who are concerned about the current situation.  I’d like to share some information about initiatives that were launched prior to the EO, which are relevant, and some that have been put in place as a result.  That said, there is more work that needs to be done and perhaps you can provide the leadership as well as the impetus.

An email will likely not suffice to address the several complex matters that you identified in your letter.  I do want to address, at a high level, some of the concerns you’ve expressed to affirm that others have raised similar concerns and that some work is underway to address them.

  1. You recommended that workshops, teach-ins, and discussions be held related to racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ+ violence, refugees, human rights, and immigration.  You acknowledged that many events are taking place and that we might benefit from a fund to support speakers.  There is a project underway at present that is designed to address diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus and a $2M recurring commitment to diversity has been made.  This funding was allocated when the administration discussed the implications of tuition increases for international students with the elected student leadership.  Your recommendation will be shared with the project team which is working with the AVP Equity and Inclusion, Sara-Jane Finlay.
  2. Discussions with the World University Service of Canada Student Refugee program.  UBC is very committed to working with WUSC. UBC committed significant funding to support the housing and tuition costs of WUSC students when the number of sponsored students was increased last year.  We look forward to receiving the recommendations from WUSC and learning how we can better support refugees on campus.  I know that the Registrar, the International Student Initiative, and International Student Development are very committed to WUSC.
  3. Academic conferences:  I appreciate that several academics are choosing not to enter the US at this time and are concerned about the implications of missing out on conferences and networking opportunities for merit, tenure, and promotion considerations.  This was a question raised by Mark Maclean of the Faculty Association, as well Allison Matacheskie, Director of Faculty Relations, Eric Eich, Vice-Provost & AVP, Academic Affairs, and Mark Maclean are meeting to discuss this issue.
  4. An updated webpage – we have been using the President’s webpage to point people to the appropriate government webpages in the US and Canada about the implications of policy changes in the USA.  Your suggestion about adding information is helpful and we’ll explore whether we can develop more resources on the Provost’s website.
  5. Students – we are reviewing students’ applications on a case-by-case basis for both undergraduate and graduate programs that have the capacity to enrol more students.  Dean Susan Porter, Faculty of Graduate + Postdoctoral Studies is consulting with Departments to determine their needs.  The Provost has committed additional funding for 2017-18 to help support late admissions to graduate programs and we are investigating whether there is a need to support postdoctoral fellows, as well.
  6. Visiting scholars – we have been contacted by doctoral students enrolled in US programs who were outside of the country and cannot gain re-entry to the USA, at this time.  We have invited those students to join us at UBC as VIRS students so that they can continue their research and complete their dissertations, under the supervision of their US supervisors.  We have waived the application fee for these students.  And, we are looking at other ways in which we can support scholars who may be in situations where their lives, liberty or wellbeing are at risk.  Early discussions with the Faculty Association and the Executive are very promising with respect to the latter initiative.

Thank you again for writing.  I do hope that upon learning about some of the activities you have some confidence that many people on campus are working to ensure that we contribute to the greater good and advance our community, and society, in ways that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Best wishes,

Pam

Pam Ratner  PhD, FCAHS
Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Enrolment and Academic Facilities

Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, International pro tem
Office of the Provost & Vice-President Academic
The University of British Columbia | Vancouver Campus

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