Dear Rutgers University – Newark community members,
Many in our community are struggling today to understand where they and their families around the world—where we all—stand in relation to some of our nation’s founding principles, including freedom of religion and equal protection under the law. We see and feel the angst of our student leaders, who have expressed both grave concern and resolute solidarity through social media. We hear and learn from faculty leaders such as our law school’s Sahar Aziz about contemporary judicial decisions like the travel ban that can be interpreted as echoing dangerous mistakes from America’s not-too-distant past that are un-American.
Our community is certainly not alone in anxiety. We join a plurality of Americans who have been shocked by the images, sounds, and stories of thousands of families torn apart and remaining even now in forced separation. Indeed, as co-chair of the steering committee of The Presidents’ Alliance for Higher Education and Immigration, a coalition of hundreds of college and university presidents including Rutgers President Barchi and all Rutgers chancellors, I have joined in expressing collective concern about current practices and advocating for humane, evidence-based immigration policies that reflect the vision of America as a haven for freedom-seeking people so vividly portrayed in the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty—itself the figure of a woman resolutely guarding the shore of our nation not armed with weapons, but thrusting aloft a torch evoking the light of knowledge and clutching a tablet evoking the rule of law.
Yesterday, U.S. Representative from Georgia and courageous civil rights leader John Lewis shared some hard-earned wisdom for this moment: “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
That perspective is not unfamiliar to us at Rutgers-Newark, where 50 years ago our predecessors “liberated” Conklin Hall and founded the law school’s Minority Student Program, among many other acts of “necessary trouble” to advance the cause of justice. Let us continue to summon their wisdom and courage, drawing strength from each other as we leverage the liberatory work we have begun anew through our Commission on Diversity and Transformation and our Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center, strengthening the ties among us and enacting the vision of the university and the nation we know we can be.