Lake Forest College administrators remain committed to the College’s promise to “embrace cultural diversity” in light of recent immigration policy measures and campus tensions.
In late January, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer sent out a press release announcing a White House executive order intended to protect “the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Within days, Lake Forest College President Stephen Schutt sent a campus-wide announcement that said, “Our administration’s office maintains contact with international student applicants and their schools abroad. … For 25 years [the College]has expressed our commitments to ‘embrace cultural diversity’ … Those words are as true today as they have ever been, and we will continue to honor them.”
Since then, the executive order has been rejected by the Federal Appeals Court, but a sense of uncertainty remains for the administration staff. “There has been real concern for the order, but our goal is to provide reassurance to the community,” Schutt said.
“We have a number of student groups on campus, as well as a Global Fest in the fall,” Schutt said when asked about inclusion initiatives set in place for the College’s international student population. These organizations and events are designed to help students from abroad acclimate to the atmosphere of Lake Forest College. “We [also]have the Office of Intercultural Relations, as a way to help students,” Schutt said.
“The responsibility for my office is to advise international students on matters related to their visa status,” said Erin Hoffman, director of the Office of Intercultural Relations. “Therefore, we pay close attention to policy changes that may cause an impact and provide information to students, as needed.”
As of now, no Lake Forest College students have been affected by the immigration order, but Lake Forest College administrators watch Capitol Hill for any relevant changes, according to Hoffman.
“We will continue to provide opportunities to explore issues that are impacting the United States, and the world, through the Hot Topic Tuesday program and by hosting other lectures and panels,” Hoffman said, stressing the importance of keeping students informed about national issues.
While no students were directly impacted by the short life of the travel ban, in the past Lake Forest College has negotiated to bringing back faculty members stuck abroad. Gorter Professor of Islamic World Studies and Professor of Sociology Ahmad Sadr was imprisoned in 2014 when trying to return to the U.S. from Iran. “We had to cooperate with the State Department and other organizations to bring him back safely,” Schutt said, adding that the administration and Office of Intercultural Relations would use all their available resources if a similar incident happened to a student abroad.
“The College’s longstanding commitment to embrace cultural diversity will remain regardless of the social or political climate of the United States,” Hoffman said, expressing that cooperation between her office and the student body is key to ensuring safety in this political climate. “I welcome feedback from students regarding how the College can continue to demonstrate commitment to our culturally diverse community and how we can work to have productive discussions on difficult and divisive issues,” she said.