Presidential Task Force – Final Update and Thank You

On January 29, 2017, I announced that we had established a task force to determine what assistance could be offered to those affected by the executive order signed by US President Trump on January 27th (“Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”).  The task force was positioned to undertake a rapid assessment of the situation, identify the immediate needs of our community, and offer appropriate assistance to members of the community affected by the travel restrictions.

I am very heartened by the compassionate response of our university community, and proud of our support units that effectively responded to the faculty, staff, and students who requested information and support.  I am confident that going forward, our existing supports are well positioned to address the ongoing needs of our community and urgent matters, as they arise.

We learnt that amongst our diverse community are 80 faculty and staff members and 350 students at UBC, with Canadian-issued work permits or student visas, who likely travel with passports issued by one of the seven affected countries.  In the intervening weeks, we have not identified any UBC student, faculty or staff member who was “stranded” as a result of the travel restrictions imposed.  I appreciate that people traveling with passports from the countries specified in the executive order, as well as others with Canadian citizenship or permanent residence status, may not be able to enter the US, in the foreseeable future, which may limit their opportunities to collaborate and network with scholarly communities of interest or to participate in conferences.  I am concerned that this has occurred; we as a community value free expression and unrestricted movement, which are essential to the pursuit and exchange of knowledge.

Although the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a stay on the travel ban, we have learnt that some international students registered at US universities and who were out of the country at the time the executive order was issued are having difficulty securing visas and gaining re-entry.  We have invited the affected graduate students who approached UBC to join us through the Visiting International Research Students program (https://students.ubc.ca/about-student-services/go-global/coming-ubc-study-abroad/visiting-international-research-virs).  We anticipate that these students will be able to complete their programs at their home universities while participating in our community of inquiry.

As is our practice, we are considering late applications for undergraduate and graduate programs on a case-by-case basis and to the extent that our programs can accommodate more students.  Furthermore, we will increase our scholarship funding for international doctoral students for 2017-18 to offer support to qualified students.

I extend my sincere appreciation to the units that supported the task force, including the Provost’s Office; Student Development and Services; the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies; the Offices of the Deans; UBC Human Resources, Housing and Relocation Services; International Student Development (Vancouver campus) and Immigration Advising (Okanagan campus); Go Global (Vancouver and Okanagan); the International Office; the President’s Office; Public Affairs; Internal Communications; Government Relations; and UBC Travel.

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