While several of Maine’s private higher education leaders denounced President Trump’s immigration order Monday, calling it inhumane and threatening, top officials in the University of Maine System remained largely silent.

“We are appalled by the executive order and the inhumane manner in which it is being implemented,” Bates President Clayton Spencer said in a statement. “The order flies in the face of fundamental American values, and it is particularly threatening to international students and faculty, as well as individuals from recent immigrant families.”

In Maine, some of the strongest language against the president’s order came from small private colleges, including Bates, Bowdoin and Colby. Public universities are in a more delicate situation politically, particularly those with Republican governors or legislatures, since a portion of their funding comes from the state.

Top officials from Maine’s public university system had no comment Monday, but said they would issue a statement this week.

The UMaine System board of trustees, all appointed by the governor, met Monday but did not take any action or release any statement related to the immigration order, spokesman Dan Demeritt said. Chancellor James Page was not available for an interview and had no comment, Demeritt said.

The Legislature is in the midst of determining state funding for Maine’s community college and university systems. State money amounts to about 40 percent of the university system’s revenue.


Trump’s order suspends immigration for citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia – for 90 days. The order, which also halts all refugee admissions for 120 days and suspends the Syrian refugee program indefinitely, prompted large protests at airports over the weekend.

There appeared to be widespread confusion among authorities tasked with carrying out the order and how it would be applied to certain groups, such as U.S. legal permanent residents, who were detained in several airports over the weekend.

“The current administration’s policy shift on immigration and immigrant communities is inhumane and will be the subject of intense scrutiny over the next months. It is also mercurial and therefore difficult for us to respond to through policy,” College of the Atlantic President Darron Collins wrote in a message to the campus community.

“Although we currently do not have students from any of the countries highlighted, we have in the past and will in the future,” Collins said, noting that the school draws its students, staff and community from 43 countries. Collins is contacting other colleges in Maine and beyond to “see what kind of collective action we might be able to take.”

Across the nation, other institutions of higher learning also responded to the ban, some criticizing it outright, while others advised students and faculty from the seven countries not to travel for the next 90 days.

The chancellor and campus presidents of the University of California system put out a joint statement saying the order “is contrary to the values we hold dear as leaders of the University of California.”


In Illinois, the state university system released a statement saying its three campuses are “greatly concerned” about the ban and “strongly recommend that students and scholars who might be affected defer travel outside the U.S.”

In Wisconsin, where the governor has publicly supported Trump’s order, the University of Wisconsin said about 130 students were affected by the order.

The move comes as universities nationwide are actively recruiting international students to boost enrollment. In Maine, the university system has 572 international students, representing about 2 percent of the seven-campus student population.

UMaine System officials said they were not aware of any students immediately affected by the temporary immigration ban, but a fall 2016 enrollment report shows that UMaine has 13 students from Iran. The enrollment report shows only countries that have at least 10 students enrolled in the UMaine system; the other six countries named in Trump’s executive order are not listed.

Several Maine schools said they would not release any information about specific students or employees who might be affected by the order.

Bowdoin President Clayton Rose pledged that Bowdoin would “continue to safeguard privacy and confidentiality, including immigration status, for members of our community.


“Unless compelled by law, we will do nothing that would put a member of our community in this kind of jeopardy,” Rose wrote. “We will keep working to assist and to provide access to expert counsel to those who may need it, and to make other resources available. We know our community, and if we know of an individual who may be in jeopardy because of these new laws we are assisting them.”

Bowdoin officials declined to say if they have any students or employees affected by the order. About 7 percent of their 1,799 students are from foreign countries.

In November, students at Bowdoin and faculty and staff at Colby joined over 100 other colleges calling for the creation of sanctuary campuses that would work to ensure the safety and privacy of undocumented students. A letter signed by Colby faculty indicated the campus had several students who fell under former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, which gives some undocumented youth a temporary reprieve from deportation. While Trump said during the campaign that he intended to end DACA, he has not yet indicated what he intends to do about the so-called “dreamer” children.

Colby College President David A. Greene said the school wants to “support and protect the rights of all members of our community.”

“The recent executive order has focused our attention on those among us who might be adversely affected by this change in policy and we are offering tailored assistance based on each individual’s circumstance,” he said. Fifteen percent of Colby’s 1,857 students are from foreign countries.

Colby government professor Lindsay Mayka said the order has prompted ordained ministers, social workers and professors from Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin colleges to action, including a plan to go to Sen. Susan Collins’ office at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Augusta to urge her to take concrete actions to stop Trump’s executive orders on immigration.


“We are opposed to the executive orders because they are damaging for American national security, break up families, and do not reflect American values,” Mayka said. “Very few of us have been involved in politics until these recent events, but feel the need to act now.”

Some campuses were setting up special legal seminars for their students and faculty. Demeritt said the system’s legal office was writing up guidance for the seven campuses in response to the executive order.

At Bates, where 8 percent of the 1,792 student body is from a foreign country, officials are holding a program on campus this Thursday with immigration attorneys.

“At Bates, we actively recruit students from across the globe. We have many students whose families are recent immigrants, and our local community is defined by immigration historically and in the present day. Furthermore, our students, faculty, and staff travel, work, and study around the world,” Spencer said.

A University of New England spokeswoman said the school did not have any students affected by the order.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Amy Calder contributed to this report.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:


Twitter: noelinmaine

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