Vahideh Rasekhi (left), an Iranian doctoral student at Stony Brook University, was released from
detention at JFK Airport in New York on Jan 29, 2017
President Donald Trump's travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim majority countries has wrecked havoc on many, including students and faculty at US universities. Academic leaders say Trump's decree, easily interpreted as a deep hostility to the world beyond America's shores, could cause irreparable harm to US higher education.
Trump on Friday banned citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries —Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen— from entering the US. More than 17,000 students from the seven countries listed in Trump’s order were enrolled at US schools in the 2015-2016 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE), while roughly 3,000 teachers and researchers were at US colleges and universities.
"The order is stranding students who have been approved to study here and are trying to get back to campus, and threatens to disrupt the education and research of many others," said Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, an elite group of 61 research institutions.
"We urge the Administration, as soon as possible, to make clear to the world that the US continues to welcome the most talented individuals from all countries to study, teach, and carry out research and scholarship at our universities," said Coleman.
International students at US colleges and universities surpassed one million for the first time during the 2015-16 academic year, according to the "Open Doors Report"published by the IIE. They spent $35 billion last year and US schools have become increasingly dependent on that revenue.
"The domino effect of this ban will result in a precipitous decline in international student enrolment from Muslim-majority countries," said Rahul Choudaha, co-founder of interEDGE, a US-based provider of support services for international students.
"It will dramatically reduce the number of international students not only from the countries facing the travel ban, but other Muslim-majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey," added Choudaha.
Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were among the top 15 places of origin for international students in the 2015-2016 academic year, according to the IIE.
The ban will hurt US graduate schools as most of the students from the seven affected countries were enrolled in Masters or post-grad degree programs. For example, 70 percent of Iranian students were enrolled in doctoral-level programs in 2016, according to Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) data.
Students are now worried that Trump's executive action would let the Department of Homeland Security ban more countries with predominantly Muslim populations at any time.
"I think everybody's kind of waiting for the hammer to fall," said Mohammad Amari, a liberal arts student from Saudi Arabia, studying at New York University (NYU.
"We had hoped that Trump’s brash pre-election promises were mere bluster. Sadly, it is a reality. The current situation has Muslim students very worried," added Amari.
Iranian student Mahya, 29 was all set to study at the Southern Methodist University, a private research university in Dallas, but Trump's executive order pulled the rug from under her feet.
"I was angry, to be honest," Mahya, 29, told "The Dallas Morning News,"asking them to use only her first name because of the politically sensitive nature of her research.
Mahya, 29 had dreams of coming to the United States to research how social media drives women's empowerment movements in her home country Iran.
"I didn't believe it. I was like, 'It's not possible because I already have my visa and my ticket and everything," said Mahya who will now do her important research in Paris.
Samira Asgari, an Iranian national living in Lausanne, Switzerland, was set to begin a postdoctoral fellowship this week at a Harvard University lab that studies the genomics of immune diseases. She successfully flew to Frankfurt, Germany, but was turned away when trying to board a flight to Boston, according to Soumya Raychaudhuri, the Harvard Medical School researcher who had recruited Dr Asgari.
For decades, the US has been a place that facilitates international scientific dialogue, seeking global cures for diseases, according to Soumya Raychaudhuri, the Harvard Medical School researcher who had recruited Dr Asgari
“So this is very much at odds with that view,” Raychaudhuri told "The Wall Street Journal."
Uttara Choudhury is a writer for Forbes India and The Wire. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.
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