The White House travel ban sowed uncertainty across Southern California research universities as foreign students from the seven countries listed on the travel ban wondered about their future and administrators wondered how the ban would dull the luster of their institutions seen as a desirable place to come and study.
Administrators at the 10-campus University of California said on Monday that over 500 graduate and undergraduate students from the White House banned countries list study at its 10 campuses.
“My research benefits this country,” said Saman Abdullah, an engineering doctoral student at UCLA who’s studying better ways to design buildings to withstand earthquakes.
He had planned to share his findings at international academic conferences.
“We’ve been making really good progress, we’ve been finding really good results about how we should design our buildings,” he said.
But he’s put those plans on hold because he’s afraid he won’t be allowed back into the U.S. after the White House travel ban.
UCLA said it has 75 students from the banned countries list, according to a campus spokesman. UC Irvine said there are 154 students and faculty on campus from countries on the White House travel ban list. Administrators there said the ban sends the message to foreign academics that the U.S. has a less than supportive environment for top researchers.
“For instance,” said UC Irvine’s head of global affairs Victoria Jones, “a colleague from New Zealand recently told me that there for the first time, this year, their outbound students who are doing exchanges, more of them have opted for Canada than the U.S.”
Jones said that the ban affects UC Irvine's ability to attract top students.
"The best minds in the world want to come to the U.S., and particularly to the University of California and the University of California Irvine, because we offer great research facilities, great research colleagues, and because they can come and study in an environment that is supportive and productive," she said. "With an executive order like this, that gets thrown into doubt."
UC Irvine and USC recommended their students from the seven banned countries stay put and do not travel abroad until there’s clearer direction from the federal government.
University of California President Janet Napolitano released a statement over the weekend saying the order is contrary to the values of the UC system.
Here is the statement, which was released Sunday:
We are deeply concerned by the recent executive order that restricts the ability of our students, faculty, staff, and other members of the UC community from certain countries from being able to enter or return to the United States.
While maintaining the security of the nation's visa system is critical, this executive order is contrary to the values we hold dear as leaders of the University of California. The UC community, like universities across the country, has long been deeply enriched by students, faculty, and scholars from around the world, including the affected countries, coming to study, teach, and research. It is critical that the United States continues to welcome the best students, scholars, scientists, and engineers of all backgrounds and nationalities.
We are committed to supporting all members of the UC community who are impacted by this executive action.
This story has been updated.