Affirming our core values: A statement from the Anna Julia Cooper Center in response to the Executive Order banning refugees and citizens of seven world nations

January 30, 2017

View the signed letter here.

Dear Colleagues,

On Friday, January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring entry to the United States for all refugees and citizens from seven foreign nations with majority Muslim populations. In the hours immediately following this order, tens of thousands of United States residents took to U.S. streets and airports to protest these unprecedented actions.

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center worked pro bono to argue before a federal court and win an emergency stay on a portion of the order. World leaders and a former United States president have spoken out against the action. The former acting Attorney General of the United States instructed lawyers of the Department of Justice not to defend the executive order, stating she was not convinced the order was lawful; within hours she was fired. Dozens of U.S. universities have issued strongly worded statements condemning the executive action.

Wake Forest University remained silent until late Monday afternoon. When President Nathan Hatch sent an email to the university community, it offered no policy position and little ethical guidance. The statement reads, in part, “We now have an opportunity to reaffirm our values,” but it does not, in the opinion of the Anna Julia Cooper Center, affirm the guiding values of Wake Forest University.

The Anna Julia Cooper Center is an interdisciplinary center at Wake Forest University with a mission of advancing justice through intersectional scholarship. To pursue this work, the AJC center sustains relationships between partners on campus and throughout the nation in order to ask new questions, reframe critical issues, and pursue equitable outcomes.

In this moment the Anna Julia Cooper Center is compelled to affirm the values we understand as foundational to our university’s motto. We acknowledge that much is still unknown, and questions may be more readily apparent than answers. Still, we believe this is a time for decisive clarity about where we, as a university community, stand. On this day the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University affirms the following:  

Knowledge knows no borders. No university can lay claim to providing a world class education unless it welcomes the world to its campus.

The Anna Julia Cooper Center values being part of a community of students, faculty, staff, scholars, and their families from countries around the world. We affirm that all are welcome here.

We affirm this declaration of welcoming carries a responsibility to advocate vigorously, openly, and decisively for affirmative fairness, non-discrimination, and safety from threatening public policies.

We will continue to use resources to educate, agitate, and insist that policymakers take full account of how fundamentally our universities depend on the ability of people to travel across borders without undue constraint.

We will stand united against acts that impede our commitment to inclusivity and will push for decisions that reflect community and compassion.

We will hold publicly and privately accountable university leadership who fail to offer adequate ethical guidance consistent with the legacy of our university’s highest ideals in this crucial time and we will encourage others to do the same.

We affirm the ideals of openness, debate, dialogue across difference, and democratic processes that our university and our nation hold dear.




Melissa Harris-Perry

Founding Director, Anna Julia Cooper Center

Wake Forest University