Responding Now: Community Partnership, Ally-ship, Education, & Clarity on Political Voice

Through Presidents and Provosts, many institutions of higher education are speaking publicly to condemn the effects of President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration. These administrative statements (like this one from the Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh) typically focus on the effects of the executive order on members of the university community, particularly including faculty, students, and staff from one of the seven countries named in the order. Statements like Provost Gallagher’s also often point to the values that institutions of higher education hold dear, values that most academic leaders are asserting are core American values that are now essential values for a globally interconnected world we work to make more humane. Still other academics are calling for boycotts of conferences in the United States.

Many of us in community-campus partnership are looking for the actions we can take as individuals and through our institutional roles. At globalsl, we were inspired by the work of Lehigh University’s Center for Community Engagement, which drew on existing partnerships, relationships, and institutional resources to support their community in understanding ways to respond and to learn more. We were particularly impressed with the way in which their cross-campus email (shared below) referred to specific upcoming events and opportunities with student groups, pointed toward ongoing internships with local agencies, urged readers toward related films in a digital humanities initiative, suggested engaging political voice through the insights of a partner agency, and pointed toward additional upcoming events in the curriculum and co-curriculum, on campus and off. Many thanks to @SStanlick and @LehighEngage for sharing! 

Globalsl will continue to gather best practice resources and inspiring examples that demonstrate the ways in which community-campus partnerships can advance human rights, social justice, global learning, and collaborative development. Please connect with us on Facebook or Twitter or sign up for emails on the right side of the page to stay updated. 

 


Original Email:

Dear Colleagues,

As many of you know, Lehigh has a longstanding relationship with refugee resettlement in the Lehigh Valley.  Through our work together, we have enjoyed a reciprocally empowering and educational partnership.

In the past 24 hours, I have gotten an outpouring of emails from individuals asking what they can do.  This, along with our commitment to the Principles of an Equitable Community, compels me to write to you.

Our agency partner is currently is overwhelmed: staff is working hard to connect with legal counsel, providing service and support remotely for the families who were en route, and answering inquiries from families already resettled in the area and now living with uncertainty.

However, there is much that we can do and are doing.  I have attached to this email a short guide that addresses what is currently going on and what you can do if you are so compelled.

I remind you that this is not an email intended to persuade anyone into political action, but rather a gathering of resources to help you feel empowered if you so need them.  If you have student or colleague that needs more details or would like to work on a project regarding refugee resettlement, please do not hesitate to send them my way.

All best,

Sarah


Resources for Refugee Support: A Short Guide

Compiled by the Center for Community Engagement, Lehigh University

As many of you know, Lehigh has a longstanding relationship with refugee resettlement in the Lehigh Valley.  Through our work together, we have enjoyed a reciprocally empowering and educational partnership.  We have provided tutoring and counseling for new neighbors, co-created documentaries, raised emergency funds for local families, and organized large events to raise awareness and promote dialogue.  Our students, faculty, and staff have learned so much through this partnership, and have grown in humility, responsibility, and active citizenship.

Current efforts (in the original email to the campus community, each bullet below was followed with a specific contact name):

  • The No Lost Generation student club will be embarking on a semester of programming to raise awareness and provide tangible ways in which the community can support our local refugee partner (NLG on Facebook)
  • We have a public service intern placed at Bethany Christian Services (Resettlement Agency) from the College of Business who is working on business and support plans.
  • There will be a series of workshops created by a team from the College of Education and members of the No Lost Generation student group aimed at strengthening skills of teachers and community members to support refugees in the area.
  • The film “After Spring” will be shown on March 21st as part of the Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative’s Migration Film Series. (MDHI Website)
  • Gryphons have reached out to ask for speakers and the living communities on campus will be discussing refugee resettlement
  • We have been asked to help support a local refugee family with students in a local school district. The youngest children are participating in Homework Club (run by the Community Service Office) and the oldest will have one-to-one mentoring and tutoring

Three main needs are at the forefront now:

  • Advocacy & Awareness Raising
  • Showing Up and Standing Up
  • Public Education

There are talented individuals doing direct service, but the larger issue is misinformation, fear, and policy decisions that are hurting our neighbors and our work.  With this in mind, the following is a compilation of resources and guidance that have been particularly helpful.

Advocacy and Awareness Raising: Guidance from the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

It is clear that a high percentage of Americans have been misinformed, as they believe that refugees do not care about this country, nor do they share “American values”. It’s our responsibility to engage those Americans in conversation, and begin to educate them. We need to show them that refugees are not a drain on America, but bring immeasurable value to this country. We know that refugees not only bring value to America, but they unconditionally love this country, and will defend America as if they were born here—we need to reinforce this message, and change the conversation.

The campaign for awareness by LIRS is currently active. It may be a lot to absorb with everything else that is happening right now, so we will try to make it as easy as possible to use.  Below you will find specifics with sample social media messages.

Here are the first three videos.  There are seven more in production.

AJ Found Safety in the US from LIRS on Vimeo.

Alex says, “I love this country” from LIRS on Vimeo.

Chan’s American Dream from LIRS on Vimeo.

Please engage staff, Board, volunteers, refugees, churches, and donors!  Use the videos with email/Facebook/Twitter, create your own content (make short videos and share other folks videos), request action (ask for Congress and the Administration to be reminded that Refugees Love America)!  Use #refugeeswelcome

Initial advocacy actions are listed here. 

Social Media

Email

  • SEND ONE EMAIL.  Using the three sample videos sent, choose ONE and email your audience using existing lists of supporters, donors, volunteers, etc.
    • Include a brief description of the video, for example:
      • “A must watch video of Alex. The son of refugees who made America their home, and instilled a sense of pride and duty into their children. Become part of the conversation at #refugeeswelcome “
    • No calls to action in first email but ask them to watch the video
    • Include link to Refugee Council USA page at http://www.rcusa.org/refugees-love-america
  • Days later, send a follow up email to those who did not open the first email first email. Change the subject line to help improve the open rate. The body copy of the email can remain the same, as they did not open the first.
    • If possible, include names in the subject line. For example: “Laura, will you help refugees in your community?”
  • Send a second, follow-up email including statistics or educational information relevant to refugees loving America.  This time ask them to contact Congress and the Administration to express their support for refugees.
    • Examples: Economic success stories in your city, such as refugees opening a local business; Stories about refugees wanting to learn English; The dreams of refugees after they arrive in America; Examples of refugees giving back to the community through service; Refugees and other citizens befriending each other in neighborhoods or schools, etc.

Showing Up and Standing Up

Seek out events in the Lehigh Valley that are intended to bring people together across differences.  For instance, this weekend, the Muslim Association of the Lehigh Valley held an Open House to welcome members of the community to learn more.  On Tuesday, an interfaith prayer space will be dedicated in Fairchild-Martindale library at 4:00 PM.

Simple kindness and making an effort beyond your daily routine seems small, but can have incredible ripple effects.  Standing next to someone who is the subject of hateful rhetoric or attending a large community gathering in support of those neighbors in the most vulnerable positions will speak volumes.

Want to stand by someone in solidarity but nervous about your preparation?  For a step-by-step guide on how to respond to Islamophobia happening in front of you, I have found that this is a helpful process guide.

Public Education

Beyond advocacy and awareness-raising, there is space to create intentional efforts to become more knowledgeable – ourselves and in partnership with the community – about refugee issues.  For instance, in the Spring, a team from the College of Education and the No Lost Generation student club will be holding workshops for teachers and service providers on the unique needs of refugees.  The Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative will be screening “After Spring” in March and hosting a panel discussion to discuss refugee issues and educate our community.  The Council for Equity and Community will be hosting dialogues such as Tackling Tough Topics Together and a dinner series on the Principles of an Equitable Community throughout the semester to bring individuals together to talk about our most difficult, but necessary, challenges facing our nation.

Think about spaces where you can create or support that type of programming and invite dialogue across borders.  And invite community members – welcoming and valuing our neighbors as thought partners is key.

As Parker Palmer reminds us, “The more you know about another person’s story, the less possible it is to see that person as your enemy.”

Remember:

  • Contacting officials for concern and for praise are both important. Pennsylvania has been ahead of the curve on refugee resettlement, and our Governor and Representatives/Senators have been supporters.  Just as you would with something that is going wrong, if you see something going right, say something.  Letters, calls, and social media outreach are all appreciated.
  • Lehigh ascribes to a philosophy of asset-based, democratic partnership in all of our community engagement. Remember that our partners are competent, compassionate professionals and experts in what they do.  We have a talented team at the state and local level who are directly working with refugees.  Support, care, and amplifying their message, while affirming their expertise, is tremendously important and empowering.
  • If you have any events to publicize, please feel free to email us to help market/publicize events on our calendar. In addition, we can host groups up to 25 people in Williams 020 and are happy to provide the space.
  • Keep up with the news and stay informed. As you know, we are living in a tenuous time when it comes to media and journalism.  There are competing and sometimes conflicting reports portrayed in different news sources. Seek out information from a variety of reliable sources and encourage your students to do the same.
  • Reach out and connect with the Center for Community Engagement – we can do more together and be more effective in partnership. This work is not new to us, but the interest and passion is on the rise, and that is a terrific sign for the future.

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