On Thursday, Sept. 17, University President Michael Roth sent a campus-wide email addressing positive actions that the University can take to address the global refugee crisis.
“Many of us have been horrified by images of thousands of refugees from Syria (and elsewhere) struggling to make their way to safety,” the email read. “Some governments are beginning to welcome thousands displaced by war and violence, while others actively discourage asylum seekers. I have been particularly appalled by the actions and rhetoric of xenophobic leaders (and would-be leaders) bringing fascistic hatred back to public life. But what can we do about it?”
He further elaborated that his wife, University Professor of Letters Kari Weil, began this discussion and decided that including the University community would be helpful.
“As a university, a place devoted to learning and building community, what can we do to lend a hand in this terrible time?” the email asks. “…Should our role also be one of advocacy, or should we try to find ways to sponsor a group of people who need asylum? Should we focus on educating our own folks about these issues, or should we make more direct interventions (perhaps with other schools)? What other ideas do you have?”
The email included several different ideas to remedy this situation. For example, the University can petition the White House to increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed to enter the U.S.
“President Obama could make a ‘Presidential Determination’ to increase the 2015 number of 70,000 refugees to 200,000 for 2016 and prioritize receiving 100,000 Syrian refugees within this number,” the email explains.
Other suggestions offered were to donate to organizations that assist the most vulnerable of those seeking asylum, work with Middletown towards becoming a “Welcoming City,” and establish internships for University students to assist with the crisis.
At the State of the School on Wednesday, Sept. 15, Roth informed those in attendance about his idea.
“[The email asks] for ideas of the global refugee crisis and what role, if any, we think Wesleyan should play in doing something about this vast, new tragedy unfolding right in front of us every night,” Roth said. “We see this extraordinary tragedy right there in front of us and I think we have a lot of smart people on the student body, the faculty, alumni, and I’m writing to other Universities presidents to see if we can crowd-source ideas about what we think we can do.”
He further added that some people may say that this issue is not the University’s business; rather, let’s focus on getting some more social spaces. Nevertheless, Roth believes that if we work together we can come up with productive ideas.
Any ideas should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. All suggestions will be shared with Director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life Rob Rosenthal, and Roth will also consult with alumni working in the field. Further information will be shared on his blog and in upcoming newsletters.