First they came for the Iranians: Impact of refugee ban on academia

February 1, 2017 at 7:00 am 8 comments

Scott Aaronson is right — all academics need to speak out against this action.  President Trump’s new refugee ban will have a dramatic and deleterious effect on academic work in the United States.  Since there is a plan for a religious test (i.e., Christians will be treated differently than Muslims), it’s likely un-constitutional.  On many counts, it’s illegal and wrong. As educators and researchers, we have a responsibility to explain the impact that the ban will have in higher-education.

The rhetoric about the ban is frightening, like theories about the ban being a “head fake” while a fascist government forms in the United States. I don’t know enough about politics and game theory to evaluate these theories, so I’ll stick to what I do know.  America relies on University research and teaching, and Universities rely on immigration. Banning immigration will set back American interests.

Today, we learned that Trump is suspending the issuance of US visas to people from seven majority-Islamic countries, including Iran (but strangely not Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Wahhabist terrorism—not that that would be morally justified either).  This suspension might last just 30 days, but might also continue indefinitely—particularly if, as seems likely, the Iranian government thumbs its nose at whatever Trump demands that it do to get the suspension rescinded.

So the upshot is that, until further notice, science departments at American universities can no longer recruit PhD students from Iran—a country that, along with China, India, and a few others, has long been the source of some of our best talent.

Source: Shtetl-Optimized » Blog Archive » First they came for the Iranians

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alanone1  |  February 1, 2017 at 7:16 am

    “Having a deleterious effect on academic work in the US” is perhaps 99th on the list as a reason for protesting the ban.

    At the top is that we are a country deeply based on both the ideals and realities of equal rights and due process — and if there was ever “a country of immigrants”, it is ours.

    Many of those who ran the Holocaust process said they were “just following orders”, as though a chain of command superseded the principles of a democracy based on equality of rights and due process. We cheer Sally Yates for pointing this out and forcing the new administration to fire her.

    As citizens, it is everyone’s duty to heed “principles first, organizational strictures second”, and to make our voices and votes count in keeping and growing our country for the better.

    It has been quite unsettling to see many of the protests from academic along the lines of “this will inconvenience us” — and if academics are not aware of the larger context, what does that mean for the future?

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  February 1, 2017 at 7:56 am

      You’re right, Alan. Barely cracks my top-100 personal reasons.

      But on this professional blog focusing on computing education, I have readers who do not share our politics. I know people who support the travel ban as improving security for our country. These are reasonable, rational people who have different assumptions and values than me. But if they are reading this blog, we have some shared interests and values. I’m expressing my concerns about the ban in terms of those shared values.

      I’m swayed by the argument that President Trump is a closer analogy to Hugo Chavez than to Adolph Hitler. The advice I read from that analysis is to engage and discuss. Don’t become caricatured as the opposition.

      In my personal life, I cheered my family and friends at the protests on Sunday. (I was at Virginia Tech when they happened, or I would have likely joined.) This blog is a separate space, where I post a different kind of response.

      • 3. alanone1  |  February 2, 2017 at 5:16 am

        I’m not discussing politics but history and biology,

        It’s not Hitler, Chavez or Trump who are the issue. Biology gives us variation, and we’ll get a few extreme types. They only become big factors via millions of people going along with them.

        The big difference between “science” and “reason” is the very different approach and care put into choosing and vetting the premises and operations and conclusions. “Reason” and “rationality” are a weak and dangerous thinking process because the consistencies that arguments can have in “reasoning” can seem to be producing “truth” and “validity”. But this is not remotely the case.

        This is why “real science” as a “collection of heuristics to get around what is wrong with our brains” needs to be used. It is the context that allows reasoning to be helpful.

  • 4. Neil Brown  |  February 1, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    I acknowledge Alan’s point that this is not as high up on the list as other issues caused by the new president, but I still think it is worth enumerating all the ways that Trump’s actions cause issues for people. My colleague has just had to cancel his SIGCSE attendance because of the ban; if it wasn’t for the fact that I am (likely to be) able to enter the US and present on his behalf, his/our work would go unpresented. When conference organisers decide where to host conferences, I hope they might take this into account and perhaps consider making a statement by moving outside the US if the ban is not revoked. (SIGCSE/ICER in Canada, anyone?)

    (I note that entry to the US has never been particularly easy and that there have always been issues for some foreign nationals entering — and that other countries including the UK can be pretty poor in this regard too. But the ban is a bit of a step up from the previous situation.)

  • […] CS education.  Their piece starts with an argument that we should not scapegoat immigrants, and given the recent immigrant ban, seems amazingly […]

  • 6. Mark Guzdial  |  February 10, 2017 at 9:19 am

    The impact on Universities was cited by the Appeals Court as one of the reasons why the ban was not reinstated:

    “Specifically, the States allege that the teaching and
    research missions of their universities are harmed by the
    Executive Order’s effect on their faculty and students who
    are nationals of the seven affected countries. These students
    and faculty cannot travel for research, academic
    collaboration, or for personal reasons, and their families
    abroad cannot visit. Some have been stranded outside the
    country, unable to return to the universities at all. The
    schools cannot consider attractive student candidates and
    cannot hire faculty from the seven affected countries, which
    they have done in the past.”

    Click to access 17-35105.pdf

    • 7. alanone1  |  February 10, 2017 at 9:36 am

      It is still a “Universal Human Rights” issue, and what’s really important here is obscured by using “pragmatic inconveniences” as reasons to be against the ban. (This is what worries me about humans, especially Americans — they have the hardest time thinking outside their own tiny worlds.)

  • 8. Computer  |  February 13, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Nice information. Thanks for sharing and keep update more.


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