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President Valerie Smith Responds to Executive Orders Regarding Refugees and Immigrants

Parrish Hall

Earlier today President Valerie Smith sent the following message to the Swarthmore community:

Dear Members of the Swarthmore Community,

Last week President Trump signed three troubling executive orders related to immigration, border security, and entry to the United States from certain Muslim majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Although federal judges in New York, Boston, and elsewhere have temporarily halted federal officials from deporting people from these seven countries who enter or re-enter the country, some families have been turned away by the most recent executive order, leading to substantial confusion and adding to a climate of fear and anxiety.

These orders needlessly place individuals and families at great personal risk and threaten to prevent international scholars and students from continuing their important research and studies. I write today to assure you that we reject the cruel and illogical spirit of these orders which, at their core, challenge our long, proud history as a nation of immigrants. I also want to provide information about available resources and actions that we have taken or will take.

Most importantly, for now, we advise all community members from the seven designated countries to suspend plans for international travel, and to remain in close contact with us as the situation unfolds. We will make arrangements for any affected students who wish to remain in the U.S. over the summer. Those with additional questions should reach out to the contacts below:

  • Students who have questions about international travel, visa status, or summer housing, should contact Jen Marks Gold, director of international student services,, 610-328-8361 or Reshma Ajayan, international student coordinator, or 610-690-6849.
  • Those with questions about study abroad plans should reach out to Pat Martin, director for off-campus study, or 610-328-8451.
  • Faculty with questions about immigration status, visas, or travel plans should contact Marcia Brown, executive assistant to the Provost, or 610-328-8320.
  • Staff with questions should reach out to Pamela Prescod-Caesar, vice president for human resources at or 610-328-7817.

We have already taken a number of concrete steps to support Swarthmore’s international students, faculty, and staff, including:

  • The Office of International Student Services (OISS) has reached out to offer support and resources;
  • OISS has reached out to current students affected by the travel ban;
  • The Provost’s Office has contacted faculty affected by the travel ban;
  • OISS continues its open-door policy for all students/staff. Jen and Reshma are able to respond immediately to inquiries;
  • This Thursday evening (Feb. 2) at 6:30 in the IC Big Room, there will be an open discussion for all members of the Swarthmore community about the recent executive orders related to immigration;
  • OISS will continue to work with Career Services and OSE to assist with housing over breaks, internships, and research opportunities for affected students;
  • There will be an Immigration Workshop featuring David Nachman, Esq., a prominent immigration attorney with Visaserve, on Feb. 28 at 5:30 in the Scheuer Room.

In December, the College affirmed its commitment to promoting the safety of any member of our community who faces heightened threat. We have also convened a working group co-chaired by Matt Zucker, associate professor of engineering, and Shá Duncan Smith, associate dean of diversity, inclusion, and community development, that will both respond to the evolving needs of undocumented members of our community and others and address, in greater detail, the additional recommendations that students and faculty have already presented. Members of the working group met informally and telephonically over the weekend and will remain attentive, as will the Board and administration, to the impact of any executive orders or legislation that place members of our community at risk.

As a nation and as a campus community, we are in unchartered waters with the new administration; our responses must be considered and firm. We stand together in upholding the values that are core to Swarthmore’s mission: our commitment to a diverse, global community; a free and open society and press; and social justice and compassion. The stakes have never been higher, and our commitment to these values has never been more resolute.


Valerie Smith

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