Scholars at Risk Responses to the U.S. Executive Order on Immigration

Posted February 1, 2017

Dear SAR members and friends,

I write regarding the new U.S. administration’s executive order on immigration and its effects on our work and the scholars we serve.

As I wrote to you in November, it is important to remember during times of uncertainty that our core mission and essence remain the same: Scholars at Risk is an international community not aligned with any particular state but rooted in international human rights and higher education principles. Our protection, advocacy, and learning (aka ‘values-promotion’) activities are premised on the view that academic freedom and related higher education values are applicable to all higher education communities. We stand ready to work with state, higher education, and civil society stakeholders everywhere to promote these values and especially to protect threatened scholars.

At the same time, we will respond to the best of our ability to threats to scholars and higher education values wherever they may arise, and we remain fully committed to serving the urgent needs of scholars and other members of higher education communities facing threats.

With that in mind, we invite you to read SAR’s current responses to the executive order in each area of our work, along with opportunities for action.

We also invite you to share with the SAR office any actions you or your institution may have taken, or any you would recommend for us to consider.

As ever, we remain deeply grateful to you and all SAR member institutions, partners, and donors for your continuing participation and support. It is an honor and privilege to be part of such an active and caring community.

Thank you,

Rob Quinn
Executive Director

SAR Responses to the Executive Order

Below are Scholars at Risk’s (SAR) responses to the recent U.S. executive order on immigration (as of Feb. 1, 2017).  SAR invites network members, partners, and friends to share with the office any actions they may have taken or any recommendations for further actions by emailing


  • SAR gave first priority to identifying and assisting any current or former SAR scholars who were outside the U.S. or in transit when the ban was announced. At present, we understand that all SAR scholars who have attempted to return to the U.S. have now been admitted.
  • SAR has reached out to all SAR scholars based in the U.S., including those from the seven countries currently listed under the executive order (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen), to offer assistance, as needed.
  • For the moment, all SAR scholars with non-permanent status are advised to avoid any nonessential overseas travel. This advice is NOT limited to the seven countries listed above, because the administration has already publicly stated that other countries may be added to the list. Scholars are further advised to consult with the international office at their host campus and to keep both the host campus and SAR office advised in advance of any future foreign travel plans. This advice will be reassessed following any future revisions or clarifications to the order.
  • SAR is working with prospective U.S. host campuses that had already invited or planned to invite a SAR scholar from the listed countries. This group currently includes a Syrian computer scientist, an Iranian political scientist, and an Iraqi philosopher. SAR will evaluate with the campuses and scholars any future revisions or clarifications to the order and, barring any positive changes, will explore alternative invitations for such scholars outside the U.S.
  • For SAR scholars currently in placements in the U.S. expiring in 2017, SAR will prioritize follow-up placement opportunities at other U.S. institutions where possible. U.S. institutions interested in supporting scholars affected by the executive order should contact SAR about the possibility of offering such a follow-up placement to one of these scholars.
  • For existing SAR scholars and new applicants accepted for placement assistance who come from the seven countries currently barred under the executive order (and any subsequent additions), SAR will prioritize placement opportunities outside of the U.S. Institutions outside the U.S. interested in supporting scholars affected by the executive order should contact SAR about the possibility of offering such positions.


  • SAR will be writing to U.S. administration officials to communicate our grave concern about the negative impacts of the executive order on SAR scholars and more generally on the protection of higher education communities and core higher education values, including freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression. A copy of the letter will be posted on the SAR website.  SAR will follow up with additional communications as warranted, and may seek meetings with appropriate U.S. officials.
  • SAR invites SAR sections, partner networks, and member institutions outside the U.S. to similarly communicate their concerns about the negative impacts of the executive order and the importance of free and open exchange of ideas and higher education personnel to U.S. embassy officials, copying their higher education and foreign ministry officials, as appropriate (with copies of any such communications and replies sent to the SAR office).
  • SAR will be including verified reports of wrongful travel restrictions on scholars and students in the data collected by the SAR Academic Freedom Monitoring Project. SAR invites scholars or students affected by the ban to submit their information at


  • SAR has given interviews and will continue to engage with U.S. and international media about the negative impacts of the executive order, including:

Inside Higher Education 

National Public Radio’s ‘1A’

University World News

  • SAR invites SAR sections, partner networks, and member institutions to draft or otherwise encourage media reports, essays, and newsletter bulletins about the negative impacts of the executive order on SAR scholars, with the scholars’ permission (with copies of any such items and replies to the SAR office). SAR is available for interviews or comments for inclusion in such items.
  • SAR commends those higher education institutions and leaders who have publicly communicated their commitment to core higher education values and their support for students and scholars directly impacted by the executive order—those caught outside and those inside the U.S. alike—and for their behind-the-scenes efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of the order.
  • SAR urges institutions and everyone in higher education to redouble our efforts to seek, support, and tell truth, including by gathering and presenting data to inform debate and any future policy adjustments. This should include gathering data and stories on those affected by the new restrictions and sharing these with elected officials, policy-makers, and the media so that the negative impacts of the order are widely known.
  • SAR urges institutions and everyone in higher education to redouble efforts to build inclusive dialogue on their campuses, in their communities, and across borders. This should include continuing to invite foreign scholars and students to work, study, visit, and attend conferences and events—especially those from targeted countries and those at risk for their work and for supporting free inquiry and expression. Invite scholars and students to tell their stories and the impact of the executive order on their lives. Organize conferences and public events to expose those impacts. Insist on their inclusion in our research and learning communities.
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