President Speaks: Ohio University president says college campuses provide proof that diversity is America's strength
As the nation’s immigration debate takes center stage in Washington, D.C., the tension felt on college campuses across the nation is palpable. The destiny of the so-called DREAMERs hangs in the balance, with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students concerned about their future, in what for many, is the only country they have known.
More than 700 college and university presidents from public and private institutions across the U.S. have spoken out in support of upholding and continuing DACA. Additionally, hundreds of business leaders – including the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google – have also called on lawmakers to protect this vital group of the American workforce. And a recent CBS News poll, released earlier this month, shows 70 percent of Americans favor allowing the DREAMERs to stay in this country.
However, the support for DACA in the halls of Congress remains less clear. In fact, it often feels as though the DREAMERs are center stage as a negotiating point relative to broader immigration matters. Yet these students are contributing members of American society advancing our economy and quality of life, as research has proven them to be.
All races and ethnicities helped build this country and it is all races and ethnicities that sustain her still today. Our diversity is a large part of what makes us unique compared to other countries in the world; it is our strength, not our downfall. It is the ethos of E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one) that enriches American life and American institutions. Step onto most any college or university campus in this country and you are sure to see a convergence of these cultures on display. It is there where we can truly experience America’s rich diversity – a microcosm of the larger population – coexisting, thriving and celebrated. And it is a beautiful sight to behold.
In higher education, our central mission is to serve the public by educating humanity. Lessons are gleaned, not only from the classroom, but also in the daily interactions a student has on campus. We instinctively fear the unknown; but higher education helps break down barriers, allowing the unknown to become known and familiar. Exposure to people from different cultures with different worldviews than your own can be powerful, and sometimes life-changing.
I believe everyone benefits from the inclusion of diverse populations into our culture; it enables us to reach a more pronounced understanding of life and the world in which we live. Conversation and civil debate are powerful tools and they are encouraged and utilized often on our nation’s diverse college campuses.
Indeed, we are a nation of laws, and while immigration reform is necessary, we are also a nation that espouses the words engraved on a plaque at the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Americans are an empathetic people and I implore the humanity of Congress: don’t end the American Dream for the DREAMERs.