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The recent implementation (and uncertain long-term status) of immigration and travel restrictions on residents of certain countries provides an important opportunity for members of the University of Georgia community to reflect on, and reiterate, our commitment to our international friends, students, and colleagues who are members of our vibrant, diverse, and global UGA family.
As the nation's first state-chartered public university, The University of Georgia has been a world leader in public higher education since its inception. Our mission statement proudly proclaims that "the University of Georgia endeavors to prepare the University community and the state for full participation in the global society of the twenty-first century. Through its programs and practices, it seeks to foster the understanding of and respect for cultural differences necessary for an enlightened and educated citizenry. It further provides for cultural, ethnic, gender, and racial diversity in the faculty, staff, and student body. The University is committed to preparing the University community to appreciate the critical importance of a quality environment to an interdependent global society."
In order to fulfill this mission, our institution celebrates and depends upon the intellectual and social contributions of our international community of students, staff and scholars. Our students come from throughout the state of Georgia, every state in the United States, and 124 countries around the globe. As of Fall 2016, UGA has 2718 enrolled students from outside of the United States; this is 7.4% of our student body. This number includes 77 students (as well as additional faculty and staff) from the countries named in the initial travel restrictions. It is imperative to our mission that all members of our academic community be able to travel for teaching, for public service, and for research to diverse locations around the globe.
We agree with President Morehead's observation that "As a major public research university committed to solving the grand challenges of the world, international engagement is a cornerstone of our mission. It is essential to our success." We also support the UGA Student Government Association's resolution 29-14, which states in part: "the intentional inclusivity and holistic mental, physical and emotional safety of all students are paramount to ensure that we nurture a successfully thriving campus."
Our entire UGA academic mission is negatively impacted if our international students, staff, and faculty are unable to travel in the practice of their scholarship and job responsibilities, participate in academic conferences worldwide, and freely visit their family and loved ones. When our international students and colleagues suffer, we all suffer. We call on all members of the UGA community to renew our commitment of both emotional and practical support to our international students and colleagues.
February 6, 2017
Janet Frick, Chair, Executive Committee, UGA University Council
Michael Lewis, Chair, Staff Council
Originally published in the 2-9-17 Red & Black
(Cover photo credit: Athens For Everyone)