U of T responds to temporary Trump travel ban

University sees 24 per cent rise in international student applications

U of T responds to temporary Trump travel ban

On June 26, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing US President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban to be temporarily implemented. The ban prevents residents of six majority-Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — from entering the US, unless they have a documented “bona fide relationship” with a person or organization in the US.

As a university with global reach, the travel ban is prompting U of T to adopt new policies in order to adapt. “We’re constantly providing the latest information we can provide with any certainty about, for instance, the challenges that our students and staff and faculty may face in travelling to the United States,” Professor Joseph Wong, Associate Vice President and Vice-Provost, International Student Experience, told The Varsity.

The revised travel ban makes clear that Canadian citizens and permanent residents will not have their normal travel to the United States impeded. For instance, if a university student is from one of the countries affected by the ban, as long as they have residency in Canada and a visa to the US, they will still be allowed to visit. Similarly, the revised ban allows people with close family members living in the US, such as parents or siblings, to enter. It also differs from the original ban in that it has removed Iraq from the list of affected countries.

According to geography professor Emily Gilbert, however, the ban may still affect U of T students’ travel.

“[The US government] said that the intent is that people won’t be stopped,” Glibert told The Varsity. “But… looking at what happened with the first executive order, we see that even though people who are dual citizens and people who are travelling on Canadian passports were not part of the original order, they were definitely being stopped.” Gilbert worries that, because of the discretionary power the executive order gives border guards, students and faculty will hesitate before travelling.

“A lot of students who have research that’s based in the United States are really mindful about having to cross that border now, whether or not they are specifically targeted by the ban.”

She argued that the ban will signal to border officials that they ought to be disproportionately suspicious of people with Middle-Eastern heritage, saying that “the revised ban has tried to be more clear about how they’re trying to implement what I think is a very xenophobic and racist policy.”

The university’s position is that, while there is little they can do about the executive order itself, they hope that they can mitigate its effects by providing information to students, faculty, and staff. The university will also continue implementing policies designed to help international students transition to life in Canada, such as by providing immigration counselling.

Gilbert added that many academic groups are also reconsidering the accessibility of their conferences and are beginning to discuss alternative options. “I think that it’s made some of us who have, over the years, been able to travel across the border pretty easily much more aware of those kind of difficulties, and what it means to have some of the biggest international conferences in the United States year after year.”

When the original travel ban was signed in January, U of T President Meric Gertler called the ban “antithetical to everything we stand for as an institution and a country.” According to Wong, the university will continue to be vocal about the ban and to offer public support to those affected by it. 

More broadly, the ban will likely contribute to the rise in applications from international students, a phenomenon dubbed the “Trump Effect.” As the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment makes US universities less attractive, Canadian universities have become a more competitive option for students from around the globe. As of May 1, applications by international students to the University of Toronto are up 24 per cent from last year. Applications from students in the US are up 71 per cent. 

Wong added that, while the university has received more applications, they do not intend to increase the number of acceptances. “The expectation is that the number of international students as a percentage of our entire student body will stay roughly the same,” Wong said.

Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale speaks at Varsity office

Dale talks the U.S election, Trump's lies, media successes and failures 

<em>Toronto Star</em> reporter Daniel Dale speaks at <em>Varsity</em> office

On December 16, Daniel Dale, the Toronto Star‘s Washington correspondent, gave a talk at The Varsity‘s office  at 21 Sussex Avenue.

Dale received considerable attention for his persistent fact-checking of statements made by Donald Trump during the recent U.S. election campaign, and was named one of 2016’s breakout media stars by Politico for his coverage.

Prior to covering the U.S. election, Dale covered Toronto City Hall during Rob Ford’s turbulent mayoral administration from 2010 to early 2015.

Beginning in June 2015, Dale’s election coverage focused primarily on the absurdity of Donald Trump’s campaign and his loyal followers.

The event lasted just under an hour and a half with both students and non-students in attendance. Dale’s talk was also streamed live on The Varsity‘s Facebook page.

Dale spoke about his peculiar experiences covering the campaign starting with his first interaction with Trump supporters at a Virginia rally in a NASCAR racetrack. Following this half-hour period, questions were opened to the audience both in-person and online.

Dale touched on the topic of Trump fans and their grievances: he saw them as a complex group filled with a variety of different kinds of people, saying: “There’s economic anxiety, yes there are a lot of racists out there, and yes there’s a whole bunch of other reasons why people backed him as well.”

With regards to Trump’s lying, Dale said it was more than strategic fibs: “What I found most remarkable wasn’t even particular lies. It was the casualness and needlessness with which he lied.”

When discussing the media’s failures in the election, which some say potentially contributed to Trump’s victory, Dale said the primary media failure was not, “that the media didn’t explain that there was this level of anger and support out there,” in fact, Dale said that there was plenty of reporting on Trump’s electorate. Instead, Dale believes that the media, including himself, was too “hyper-certain.”

“I think we had a polling error and we had a media error in explaining what polling data means and where it can go awry,” Dale said.

The future of media was discussed as well. This included the decline of traditional news reporting and outlets, the rise of social media and fast-paced news cycles, and the prominence of fake news.

The event concluded with online questions asking Dale about his background, as well as him offering some advice to young journalists.

Since the election, Dale said that he took a much-needed two week vacation, but will continue covering the Trump administration for the Star in the future.

Watch the recording of the livestream of the talk on Facebook.