Since Donald Trump’s racist immigration ban was announced, more than 5,000 academics from around the world have pledged to boycott conferences held in the US while the ban persists. A further 27,000 academics have signed a mass petition against the decree. The signatories include 51 Nobel laureates.
The statement pledging support for the boycott questions “the intellectual integrity” of international conferences “while Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded from them”.
The National Tertiary Education Union has issued its own statement denouncing the ban. “We urge university communities across the country to join as one in taking a united public stand in condemning these attacks upon the free movement of students and staff”, said Jeannie Rae, NTEU national president.
Trump’s ban has had an immediate effect on more than 17,000 students currently studying in the US and hundreds of university staff members who hold passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. If any of these students or staff leave the US while the ban is in effect, they will be blocked from re-entering the country.
One of these students, Ali Abdi, tweeted, “I am an Iranian Ph.D. student at Yale Uni. Now overseas to do research. Trump’s EO [executive order] might prevent me from returning to the US!”.
This action by academics follows similar historic boycotts against apartheid South Africa and a boycott that is currently in place against apartheid Israel. Since the ban, debates have been taking place about the efficacy of the move against the US, but it is clear that, whatever the tactics of the response, outrage about Trump and a willingness to resist already run deep within academic communities.
Louis Bayham, a lecturer in film at the University of Southampton in the UK, summed up the sentiment, saying, “Our first priority has to be with our persecuted colleagues in what is proving to be a perhaps pivotal moment for global humanity”.