The Daily Pennsylvanian commends Penn President Amy Gutmann and the University for taking a public stand against President Donald Trump’s unreasonable, unconscionable and inhumane executive order barring nationals of seven majority-Muslim countries from entry to the United States. As Gutmann explained in her statement, the order represents a betrayal of numerous commitments and values that are fundamental to both the University of Pennsylvania and the United States.
Less than 48 hours after being signed, the executive order has carelessly separated families — including those of some of our students — needlessly upended lives and returned persecuted refugees who had diligently followed all the applicable rules to the source of their torment and jeopardy. In our view, the executive order represents that most egregious of moral evils: the malevolent, capricious exercise of official power against those most vulnerable to it. It is proper that such an evil should be denounced by the leader of an institution that has pledged itself to being a force against human suffering in the world.
As a media organization, we typically advise caution with regard to University expeditions into the political realm. Generally, Penn should refrain from taking institutional stances on matters of national policy. Because a college should be a forum for the unfettered contest of conflicting ideas, it is unsuitable for it to have institutional doctrines about contested political questions, such as which immigration policies best suit our nation’s values and interests.
We feel, however, that Trump’s order transcends mere partisan or intellectual dispute and rather enters the realm of immoral, lawless cruelty. The fact that politicians of both parties have denounced the order, that immigration reformers of both liberalizing and restrictionist tendencies have decried it and that at least five federal courts have temporarily enjoined it proves that this is more a humanitarian issue than a political one. For that reason, we applaud the statement as a sharp defense of the kind of basic moral consensus without which liberal education cannot survive.
That said, as an organization we advocate for open expression and respectful, constructive debate among members of the Penn community. Immigration policy is the type of issue that might be put up for debate in a political science course, and we sincerely hope that the fact that it has been addressed in a statement of official University belief will not mean that such debates will no longer be had within Penn’s walls.
The administration, by law and by academic responsibility, must walk a thin and often blurry line when commenting on national issues. We believe that, in this instance, this balancing act was done successfully.