The Administration’s Response to Trump

Donald J. Trump

Donald J. Trump

Since the shocking outcome of the 2016 presidential election, the Dartmouth administration has made every effort to portray Donald Trump’s victory as an undisputed national tragedy. In the days following the elections, students were bombarded with campus-wide emails sent out not only by administrators, but also by a collection of outraged student groups. Although the administration addressed the campus in a more subtle and civil and less raw and vulgar manner than some of the student groups (though, admittedly, it is difficult to get less subtle and civil than “F**k Trump), there was still a somber tone in the emails that did more than simply hint at favorability toward the losing candidate. They were quick to remind the student body of the counseling facilities that they have made available on campus, supposedly for the Clinton supporters who found themselves in need of therapy following their loss in the general election. One of the recurring elements in the post-election emails has been an emphasis on catering to the needs of the undocumented immigrants on campus, and specifically those who are relying on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to remain in the United States.

Since the election, there has been a nationwide push for “sanctuary cities”, and now “sanctuary campuses” as well. Cities across the country have been declared sanctuary cities as a way to preemptively counteract any steps President Trump may take to deport illegal immigrants. This strategy has garnered significant amounts of controversy, as many people question the legality associated with cities’ refusal to comply with federal immigration law. College campus administrators have followed suit, making similar statements about how they will proceed if there is any radical transformation of U.S. policy on illegal immigration. In the Ivy League, university presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia have yielded to the relentless protests by declaring their schools sanctuaries. Princeton University’s President, on the other hand, directly rejected the premise of a sanctuary campus in the first place, stating that it has “no basis in law.” More common seen is the strategy utilized by Phil Hanlon, specifically regarding the way he responded to the requests from the Dartmouth community for his public endorsement of the label. Members of CoFIRED (Dartmouth Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality and DREAMers) had launched a petition demanding Hanlon’s acceptance of the “sanctuary campus” label, along with several other requests, including college funding for legal counsel on behalf of student beneficiaries of DACA or for any undocumented students.

Hanlon’s response to the petition, which received some backlash from the Dartmouth immigrant community, did not directly address many of the petition’s demands. In the email sent to the entire campus on November 18th, President Hanlon stressed his support for DACA, and noted that he has joined about 600 other university presidents in signing the “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and our Undocumented Immigrant Students,” which is currently hosted on the website for Pomona College in California. But as The Dartmouth reported, in an article from Debora Hyemin Han entitled “Hanlon responds to CoFIRED’s petition,” Hanlon did not directly address many of the components of the petition. Hanlon attempted to show empathy for the students by writing that “at this moment, some members of our community feel vulnerable and at risk,” but did not seem to support or oppose many of their demands. Since Trump’s stances on immigration policy were not entirely clear at this point, Hanlon made the effort to reassure immigrant students that may have been jarred by the election’s outcome. In addition, President Hanlon made sure to emphasize that the administration will stay “within the bounds of the law” in their efforts to minimize the impact of Trump’s potential policies on these students. In her article, Han accurately summarizes Hanlon’s reaction to the complaints by saying that he “reaffirmed the school’s support for its undocumented students but has stopped short of adopting the title” of “sanctuary campus” for Dartmouth College.

The College administration also responded to the temporary travel ban administered by President Trump. Public outrage ensued when Trump signed the executive order that would temporarily ban travel to the United States from a specific set of countries deemed high-risk for producing radical Islamic terrorists. On January 29th, President Hanlon sent a campus-wide email summarizing the executive order, and offering advice to any members of the Dartmouth community that may have been affected. The executive order itself originally outlined a 90-day suspension of entry into the United States for migrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen: all countries that had been dubbed “countries of concern” by the Obama administration. The national media was quick to label this action as an early sign of Islamophobia in the Trump administration, and the term “Muslim Ban” and, more commonly among younger populations, #MuslimBan, took off on social media. The term came from the fact that these seven countries have Muslim majorities, but of course the ban was not going to impact all Muslim-Americans that happened to have been traveling at this time. The email continued to state that Dartmouth was in agreement with the statement from the Association of American Universities, “calling for the repeal of the executive order.” Perhaps the primary intention behind the email was to advise anyone with connection to the Dartmouth community that is from one of the seven listed countries not to travel internationally. The email ended on a sentimental note, with an effort to unify the community, reading as follows: “Thanks to each and every one of you for pulling together as a community during this time of need.”

On March 6th, following Donald Trump issued a second executive order calling for lighter provisions than the first executive order, which had been frozen by the federal court system. In the second executive order, signed March 6th, only six of the original seven countries were affected, with Iraq unaffected. Additionally, previously issued visas remained valid and the Trump administration placed a cap of 50,000 on the number of Syrian refugees granted asylum in the United States, in contrast to the indefinite ban of refugees the first order called for.

In response, Hanlon sent another email to campus two days after the order’s signing. Though again characterized by disdain at Trump’s order, Hanlon’s second email was much tamer than his first. He wrote that although the March 6th order “may cause less disruption than the first order” he still believes that the provisions are “incompatible with [Dartmouth’s] institutional values.” Furthermore, the second order drew outrage from student groups, immigrant advocacy agencies, and Democrats alike.

The purpose of President Hanlon’s letter seemed cloudy. He proclaimed that Dartmouth joined 47 other campuses across America in writing a letter urging President Trump to “rectify the damage” caused by the first executive order. He also affirmed Dartmouth’s “commitment” to any member of our community, no matter his citizenship or country of origin. He additionally affirmed Dartmouth’s continued support for the Obama-era policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects families consisting partially of undocumented immigrants. Hanlon talked about Dartmouth’s ideals and its commitments to its students, however he did not offer much in terms of solutions. Other than reassure students that Dartmouth’s infamously inefficient Office for Visa and Immigration Services would continue to do their job, Hanlon ultimately offered no solutions. If President Hanlon is indeed so serious about tackling President Trump’s agenda, which has been deemed so “inconsistent” with Dartmouth’s values that he has already written multiple emails on the subject, then why hasn’t he offered up any solutions?

With their series of emails, President Hanlon and his administration have succeeded only in stirring up outrage and undermining the legitimacy of America’s political leadership. Though Trump’s executive orders are questionable in actual effectiveness, and not even agreeable among Republicans, the administration’s response has accomplished little, if anything at all. Rather than offer tangible assistance to affected students, it has simply bragged about its broad commitments and values and its incompetent OVIS. If the administration truly cared, they would tighten their bootstraps and offer up some serious solutions for those students they believe are in danger.

The administration’s broad response and lack of action in the wake of what they consider a crisis are part of an alarming trend at the College. Ever since President Hanlon announced Moving Dartmouth Forward in January of 2015, Dartmouth’s administration has received overwhelmingly negative feedback for questionable decisions and blunders. The housing system launched by the administration in November 2015 is still a burden to the campus at large, accomplishing little to actually build stable residential communities. Students are forced to live only with other students in their arbitrarily selected house, and according to The Dartmouth, construction costs of professors’ homes reach into the millions of dollars. This does not include the money spent on the social houses and many other costs necessary to institute the system. The social houses are not simply working, and remain practically vacant on most weekday and weekend nights. Indeed, the administration’s response to President Trump is just the latest in a series of quite unfortunate blunders.

We at The Review remain hopeful that there will be positive change in the administration and their measures taken to affect student life at the College. Their response to the election and early policy of the Trump Administration, however, unfortunately fit within the continued trend of incompetence and lack of concrete action. Rather than emails founded by generality about commitments or values here at Dartmouth, President Hanlon’s administration could talk about real measures that would actually impact the lives of the students it feels are being targeted.