“Hear us. You could be us.”
This slogan was brightly written on dozens of signs at the protest at the MSU Rock on Feb. 9. Members of the Persian Student Association and the Graduate Employee Union of Michigan State University gathered against the temporary travel ban against seven majority-Muslim nations. The ban was called by executive order by President Donald Trump in late January. It has since been stopped by the courts.
“It’s not about security,” said Dr. Abdol-Hossein Esfahanian, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at MSU. He called the ban is a political statement, fulfilling an unreasonable campaign promise, and said that now the administration is trying to do it “so-called legally.”
Esfahanian is also the faculty advisor of the Persian Student Organization.
Esfahanian said he has distant family in Iran, one of the countries subject to the ban, who had to cancel their appointments for visas to the United States.
Esfahanian denounced the ban to protesters. Others made speeches as well, including Lansing City Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar.
With many people being members of both the Persian Student Association and the Graduate Employee Union, the protest was scheduled very quickly after the ban was announced.
“MSU has more international grad students than anyone else in the Big 10,” said Sarah Bijani, a vice president of the Graduate Employee Union.
There have been a lot of protests about other aspects of the ban but “not a whole lot of conversation about affecting academics,” Bijani said.
“The next stage after the rally is to open communication,” Bijani said. She said that the Graduate Employee Union planned to take the issue to the Michigan State University board of trustees, as a next step.
Trump has tweeted that the ban does not target only Islam. However, the fact that it listed only majority-Muslim countries and that Trump said he would ban Muslim immigration during his campaign cast doubt on the situation. Questions were raised among many about religious discrimination.
With these questions, the Graduate Employee Union and the Persian Student Organization defended one First Amendment freedom by exercising another.