The Joint Councils of the St Andrews Students’ Association have made a statement endorsing the values of a student-led petition condemning US President Donald Trump and his controversial executive order on immigration while also deciding not to formally endorse the petition itself.
The petition was started following recent protests Mr Trump in St Andrews and is specifically opposed to his executive order on immigration, which places limits on entry for people from seven Muslim -majority countries.
The petition states, “We, the undersigned, stand united in our protest of the despicable and xenophobic executive order of the Trump administration, as well as its wider agenda against the Muslim community. We stand united with our brothers and sisters, of all faiths and all belief systems, in the common conviction that bigotry, scapegoating, and fear mongering are an irresponsible and dangerous practice unfitting for any elected official to indulge in.
The undersigned Americans, additionally, point to the ‘Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965’ which clearly states that no person can be ‘discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence,’ and observe that this law supersedes the 1952 legislative prerogative under which Trump justified his hideous ban.
Thus, this ban is not only immoral, it is illegal.
We request that the St Andrews Students’ Association reflect our concerns and make a statement condemning Trump’s executive order.”
The petition had 158 signatures at the time of its presentation to the councils.
A statement on the Association Councils Facebook page announced that councils had “reaffirmed the values of inclusivity and diversity that the petition submitted under the title ‘St Andrews Stands United’ supports. We encourage and support active student involvement in all matters they feel strongly about.”
However, the councils refused to endorse or sign the petition as a body. Council members cited numerous reasons for not signing the petition on behalf of the council itself, including the fact that some students may support Mr Trump and the travel ban and 158 signatures on the petition may not be representative of the entire student body’s opinion.
Rector’s Assessor Dylan Bruce said, “I’m not sure it’s necessarily our place to make a statement against other people’s values. I would sign this petition myself, but I’m just not sure we should sign it as the Student Representative Council (SRC).”
However, the petition was signed by several members of the councils individually, including Association President Charlotte Andrew, Director of Representation Jack Car, and Director of Student Development and Activities Caroline Christie.
Speaking to The Saint after the meeting, Adam Strømme, who presented the petition to the councils, said, “My hope is that the petition starts a conversation, and in many ways, it already has, but its purpose is only consummated in the realisation of concrete goals.
“A statement from the Joint Councils would be one thing. From the University, another. From the wider UK education system, a possibility I have been told exists, better still. But ultimately, I think pragmatism suggests it would be best if the petition helped cement a conviction, even if only by reaction, that we must actively protect the diversity and inclusion here in St Andrews which makes our University so special.
“My hope is that students get more involved. Too often, people have a romanticized notion of what activism looks like. It doesn’t always have to come with engagement with national politics: doing good is, in a way, a lot simpler than that. One protestor petition is not what changes the world, but ultimately all things that do start with things just like that.
Mr Strømme also discussed future for the group that organised the petition, St Andrews Stands United (SASU):
We intend to have a general meeting in the next few weeks to chart our concrete plans for action and would love all the support we could get. It really just is a collection of students who care about these issues, and all who wish to help us achieve our goals of a better world are welcome to help us figure out how best to do that,” he said.
Mr Strømme added that, while he was the author of the petition, it would be “absurd to pretend I am the sole reason it came to be. We started it for the very reasons stated on the petition itself. The actions of the Trump administration are not just despicable but set a precedent that is uniquely dangerous, and the march wouldn’t have been possible if many other people didn’t recognise that fact and feel compelled to act.”
A January protest opposing the Trump administration’s travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries attracted more than 400 student and resident participants. The march was organised by the St Andrews Socialist Society and coincided with other anti-Trump protests across the United Kingdom.