University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek says this morning the university is still gauging the effects of the executive order restricting travel to the United States by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations.
“We are committed to protecting the rights and opportunities extended to all members of our academic community, and we will continue to recruit, retain, and support faculty, staff, and students from around the world,” Cheek says in a news release.
University spokeswoman Amy Blakely says a total of 81 students and members of the staff and faculty hail from those seven countries. She didn’t immediately have specifics on nationalities.
“These people are really concerned right now,” she says via telephone. “They are all in the same boat so it really doesn’t matter what country they are from.”
She says the university was “proactive” in reaching out to those affected, and had no knowledge of the order prior to its signing. The university has not liaised with any federal officials on the matter.
The students, staff and faculty were contacted by the UT Center for International Education as soon as word came down of the order; they were told to evaluate travel plans for their families and themselves over the next three months, as “they might not be able to get back” to their studies or jobs, she says.
Cheek offered assurances the university would work with the affected people to the best of its ability.
“I want to reassure everyone, especially our international students and scholars, that the university’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and civility remains as strong as ever.”
Cheek says the university’s Center for International Education has been working with staff, students and faculty who hold visas from the seven nations: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and Libya — to determine how the executive order signed Friday by President Donald Trump may affect them.
“The university remains actively engaged in understanding the details of what is still a very fluid set of circumstances and will continue to support all members of our campus community.” He urged affected members of the university’s international community to contact counselors at the CIE on Melrose Avenue or call the Office of the Dean of Students at (865) 974-3179.
“I ask you to take this opportunity to reach out to your fellow Volunteers, especially those who may be feeling uncertain or fearful, and help ensure that our campus is a welcoming community for everyone,” Cheek says.
Knox County-based journalist Thomas Fraser is a native of Charleston, S.C. who grew up in Oak Ridge and Knoxville. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and has worked as an editor and reporter for daily newspapers and websites in Tennessee, North Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia.
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