Try to imagine what it must be like to be a member of a diverse, multicultural and multiethnic community of approximately 1.6 billion Muslims (just under 25 percent of the global population). You visit the website of President-elect Donald Trump and read, “Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
How do you think you’d react to these words from the next President of the United States? A little empathy is all it takes to consider a range of possibilities, which include fear, insult and pain from having been so negatively stereotyped, merely because of one’s religious affiliation.
Kansas State has many Muslim students, staff and faculty. Many are international students. Our Muslim colleagues are one of many sources of the diversity that enhances the educational experiences that K-State offers. Would K-State be a better or worse university if President-elect Trump’s proposed policy becomes law? I think the answer to this question is obvious.
If a Muslim engineering international student is trying to decide between attending K-State in America or the University of Toronto in Canada, don’t you think President-elect Trump’s proposal will make it very difficult for us to recruit this student? And if a Muslim biology professor from Europe is thinking about whether to take a teaching or research position at K-State, don’t you think President-elect Trump’s proposal will make it difficult for us to recruit that professor? In fact, it might be impossible to recruit this student or that faculty member if the proposal becomes law.
Currently, K-State is committed by law and by conviction to being an equal opportunity university. There is no way to reconcile this commitment with President-elect Trump’s proposal.
Of course, if the proposal is made law it won’t be because of K-State. But that’s no consolation. And it’s beside the point. Does anyone believe that during the Jim Crow era of legally enforced segregation the University of Mississippi wasn’t morally complicit in laws that forbade African American students from attending the university? The University of Mississippi did not make the law. But the law did work through the university. The University of Mississippi thereby served as an instrument for white supremacy. In a similar way, K-State’s commitment to remaining an equal opportunity university would be corrupted if President-elect Trump’s proposal goes into effect.
For some perspective we can think about this: If adopted, the total ban on Muslims from entering the United States would make America the only democracy to adopt an immigration policy that closes its borders to all non-citizen members of the second largest religious group in the world. Temporary or not, that’s nearly 25 percent of the global population that would be prohibited by law from entering the U.S., merely because of religious affiliation.
What should K-State do in the face of President-elect Trump’s proposal for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”?
We cannot make the law, but we can reaffirm our commitment to remaining an equal opportunity university, with emphasis on the fact that religious bigotry and intolerance is not compatible with this commitment.
Other options include bringing our concerns about the proposed law to our state and national representatives and congresspersons, and also coordinating with leaders at other universities in an effort to make clear the devastating impact this proposal would have on universities, not just in Kansas, but everywhere in the United States.
What can K-Staters do as students, faculty and staff? Some reflection on religious freedom and toleration and the ugly consequences of its converse, religious discrimination and intolerance is surely a good thing. But that isn’t nearly enough. Taking seriously the concerns of any group on campus that faces increasing social hostilities is also necessary. That is a minimal condition for maintaining an equal opportunity university.
Can we please work to make sure that K-State remains an equal opportunity university for all students, faculty and staff?
Jon Mahoney, associate professor of philosophy