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Letter to Graduate Students Regarding the U.S. Travel Ban

January 31, 2017

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR) want to jointly ensure all graduate students are supported in the wake of the dismaying turn of events in the United States over this past weekend. Approximately 500 of our graduate students come from the seven countries affected by Friday’s Executive Order, and these students may find themselves suddenly unable to attend conferences, job interviews or other professional obligations, or able to visit friends and family in the US. They may also experience difficulties with travel that requires stopovers in the US on route to other destinations. It is also likely that some of you have friends and family who are closely affected by the travel ban and the fallout associated with its implementation.

On Sunday, President Turpin posted a message on the Quad stating our unequivocal commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and equality at the University of Alberta. Universities Canada has issued a similar statement.

Today, the GSA and FGSR want to emphasize how incredibly valuable our international students, faculty, and staff are to our campus (and other institutions around the world). Global colleagues bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and ideas that make us a stronger institution, and our scholarship in a place of higher education depends on the movement of people and ideas. We must collectively reject the fear and hatred driving these divisive and intolerant policies, and instead allow our differences to create new opportunities to grow and learn from one another. It is important that we remember that Canada’s strength is its diversity, and continue to extend a welcoming spirit in our interactions with others.

At this point, the full implications of this Executive Order are still unknown. If you have been directly affected, please discuss this situation with your supervisor and/or contact FGSR (details below). Concretely, FGSR will help address out-of-pocket expenses for students who are unable to travel to conferences planned in the near term, and will ensure that you are eligible for replacement travel funding at a later date. Other supports for anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by the Executive Order or who are feeling upset or disturbed by the situation in the US or in Canada include:

Those abroad experiencing travel difficulties
• Protective Services - or 780-492-5050 (24/7, collect calls accepted)

International students with questions
• International Student Services - or 780-492-2692 or Telus Centre 142

Students feeling stressed or upset
• Counseling and Clinical Services - 780-492-5205 or SUB 2-600
• Interfaith Chaplains Association (for faith-based and spiritual support) - or 780-492-0339 or 3-02 SUB. (Note: Multi-faith Prayer and Meditation Space in 172 HUB)
• Community Social Workers - or 780-492-3342
Graduate Student Assistance Plan

Students considering studying abroad
• Education Abroad - or 780-492-2692 or Telus Centre 125

General questions or concerns
• Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research - or 780-492-3499 or 2-29 Triffo Hall
• Graduate Students’ Association - or 780-492-2175 or 1-49 Triffo Hall

The university has compiled a list of resources for your reference if you need additional assistance or advice on travel as a result of the travel ban.

In addition, FGSR is actively exploring whether it will be feasible for the University to take a role in helping the many thousands of students who may be unable to complete their studies in the US. Our hearts go out especially to those who may already have invested years in a project which they can no longer work on in person. University of Alberta International is, likewise, contacting our peer institutions to see if a coordinated approach is feasible, and is in touch with the federal government concerning visa implications. University Relations is also working with counterparts on messaging and pan-institutional strategies.

We welcome your input, and if you have further ideas or suggestions on how we can help, please contact the GSA and/or FGSR.

Sarah Ficko (GSA President) and Heather Zwicker (Vice-Provost and FGSR Dean)