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Colleges warn international students, faculty to avoid travel outside country

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Hundreds of protesters gathered Sunday at KCI to decry President Donald Trump's order barring citizens of seven Muslim nations from entering the United States.
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Hundreds of protesters gathered Sunday at KCI to decry President Donald Trump's order barring citizens of seven Muslim nations from entering the United States.

Universities in Missouri and Kansas are pledging support to international students and faculty who could be affected by President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugee policy.

Many school officials have urged their international students and faculty not to start planned study or research overseas. Indeed, those individuals should not travel outside the country for any reason, the school officials say.

Trump’s order, issued Friday, blocks any visitor — including tourists, students and business people — from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days. Those countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump’s order also bars entry for refugees from anywhere in the world for 120 days, and bans refugees from Syria indefinitely.

University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, in a weekend message to campus, said she was “deeply concerned about the well-being of KU students, faculty and staff who may be affected by the new federal restrictions.”

“All nationals from the affected countries (should) avoid international travel until there is some clarification of the situation,” Gray-Little said. “This includes passport holders, citizens, nationals and dual nationals from the impacted countries.”

Kansas State University President Richard Myers said his university “deeply values” contributions of its international faculty and students and is “concerned about the detrimental effects of this policy on those pursuing academic studies and research.”

An initial count, Myers said, indicates that K-State has 63 students and three post-doctoral fellows from the seven countries that the U.S. is blocking.

Not all schools have said how many of their students could be directly affected by the order.

University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor Leo Morton also communicated with his campus over the weekend, saying the university extends its “support for international students, faculty and staff who make important contributions, enrich our university, and are integral members of our community.”

“The academic programs at UMKC and the University of Missouri System are enhanced by the diverse contributions from students, faculty and staff who hail from more than 100 countries,” Morton said.

UMKC planned a forum Monday for students and faculty with concerns about the order to talk in a “safe space” closed to news media and the general public. And in individual conversations, UMKC officials are advising students impacted by the order not to travel outside the country.

University of Missouri interim chancellor Hank Foley sent out a campus notice telling students or faculty who might be affected by the travel order to call on him. “I care and want to reassure you,” Foley wrote. “I am optimistic this will work out.

“You are an essential part of our university community. We welcome you and value you. My leadership team and I are here to support you in any way possible.”

In the days ahead, Foley said, MU leaders will work closely with federal and state lawmakers. The voices of higher education leaders “are being heard loudly and clearly in Washington,” he said.

MU has 140 international students from the countries mentioned in the executive order — 52 from Iran, 78 from Iraq and about 10 from Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen; none are from Somalia.

It also has about 15 scholars from Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Gray-Little, Morton and Foley said university administrators were reaching out to national education organizations to get a better handle on how the president’s order will affect international students and faculty.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities lauded the scientific, cultural and economic contributions that international students have made to their campuses and surrounding communities.

“America’s state colleges and universities have been strengthened by the presence of students and faculty from around the globe, including those from the seven countries specifically targeted by the president’s executive order,” the association said in a statement.

The association said that while state schools share in the collective commitment to protect national security, “we respectfully urge the administration to reconsider its recent action.”

More than 17,000 students from the seven countries listed in the president’s order were enrolled at U.S. schools in the 2015-2016 year, according to the Institute of International Education. At the same time, more than 2,000 such teachers and researchers were at U.S. colleges and universities.

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc

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