Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, Global, Government

President Trump's executive order on refugees

January 31, 2017

Below is an updated version of a message sent Jan. 30 to the Gillings Community in response to President Trump’s executive order. We also held a reflection session for our students, faculty and staff to provide a no-judgment space for reflection, discussion and solidarity.

To the Gillings School community –
The executive order issued by President Trump on Friday, Jan. 27, has sparked strong reaction from universities and others throughout the weekend. Last night, we received a message from Chancellor Folt about the executive order, expressing support for our many international students, faculty and staff. The Gillings School of Global Public Health has a strong presence throughout the world, and we benefit greatly from the experience and expertise of our global partners and community members. We welcome people from all countries. We recognize that the evidence base for the executive order is lacking, and some global experts suggest the order may make us less, not more, safe.

We are concerned first about supporting our students, faculty and staff who may be affected directly by the order. The Office of International Students and Scholar Services at UNC Global is available to answer questions or provide guidance. The Gillings Global Gateway will be reaching out to those we know may be affected to help ensure they are aware of available resources. We are committed to support our Gillings community.

The Gillings School does not make national policy, and we are in the difficult position of responding to a changing and contentious environment. We recognize that there is substantial ambiguity about implementation of the order, and that the situation may change from day to day. It is changing from day to day. As the situation shifts rapidly, we urge people to stay informed but also to be wary of misinformation. We will be working together to share our expertise about how changes in policy affect the public’s health and public health education here and throughout the world.

The Gillings School remains committed to diversity and inclusion and does not discriminate on any basis, including but not limited to race/ethnicity, color, national origin, age, gender, socioeconomic background, religion, creed, veteran’s status, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and disability. We are made stronger by our diversity and will continue to be inclusive. We do not discriminate against people on the basis of religion. We welcome people of all faiths and backgrounds.

As dean of the Gillings School, I oppose the executive order. Like many who will be reading this, I am disturbed that our country, which welcomed my immigrant grandparents early in the 20th century, and was founded and, in large part, built by immigrants, could be less welcoming today.

I also recognize that this is a national policy. My single opposition will not ignite change. I encourage the Gillings community to consult your consciences to determine how to respond. Some of you may agree with the executive order. Others oppose the order. Publicly, I speak as an employee of the University and leader of this school when I talk about our commitment to diversity and our community, especially, students, faculty and staff from the affected countries or those traveling to these countries.

We have responsibilities as citizens or visitors to the country to be informed and to act as our consciences dictate. Some of those reactions might be taken, not as university employees but as private citizens who are speaking as such and not as official representatives of the University. These actions might include calling legislators (with statements of support or opposition), writing letters to legislators, attending various special educational or reflection events and participating (in support of or against the order) in marches and other civil actions that inform, educate and highlight your opposition to, or support for, the policy. This is not a time for hand-wringing or silence. Constructive, positive, respectful, non-violent action is needed.

For now, please take the time to reach out to students, staff and faculty from affected countries to offer your support.

Warm regards,



Barbara Rimer


Hi Kay, thanks so much for your comment. I so agree with you about public health voices. terrific that you have an appointment at GW. Barbara

Kay Johnson


Dear Dean Rimer - As an alumna of the MCH Department (84) and past advisory member for the SPH, I am pleased to see your posting. I received a similar message from Dean Lynn Goldman at George Washington University SPH, where I have an adjunct faculty appointment. Public health leaders can make a difference in these time and our voices should be heard. Kay Johnson, MPH, EdM

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.