Immediately following President Donald Trump’s inauguration, people took to the streets of Washington, D.C. to protest. In the weeks that followed, millions of people around the world joined in marches and demonstrations to show their dissatisfaction with various issues surrounding the president’s policies.
One issue that hit CUNY close to home is the executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The executive order banned people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the United States. The ban was put into place shortly before the start of the Spring semester while many students were still away on vacation or studying abroad. No students from Baruch College were turned away, but Saira Rafiee, a doctoral student at the CUNY Graduate Center, was among those who were.
CUNY has a large immigrant population and hosts around 40 percent of undergraduate students who were born outside of the United States.
When news surrounding Rafiee broke, students jumped into action by spreading her story to members of CUNY administration and getting her in contact with those who could potentially help her gain entry. Along with the help of local officials, CUNY administrators organized a press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall calling for the safe return of our fellow student. On Feb. 4, Rafiee returned to the United States.
This story is a perfect example of how student advocacy can play a part in our surrounding political environment and truly affect change in today’s society. Over the course of the next two months, students will need to stay involved as funding for CUNY has been slashed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget. In order to convince politicians to change this, we must organize and stay involved. Calling representatives, staying updated on CUNY-related news and even sharing information with friends are all ways you can contribute.
Many were discouraged and outraged by the actions of some people participating in the marches when they became violent, but it is important to realize that violence is not the only way to be involved. People often describe a protest as something akin to a mob or rally but, a protest can take a variety of different forms. Voting, divesting personal funds or writing letters for a cause are all valid ways to voice your opinion.
Democracy only works when the people are engaged and it is our job to make it work for us. If you want to get involved in student advocacy, we are here to help.