Although President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration that caused panic and protest across the nation last week is suspended pending legal challenges, three Clemson University professors said they think their hunger strike against the order is more important now than before.
“In our view, it actually makes it more urgent for Clemson to take a stand,” said Todd May, the Class of 1941 Memorial professor of humanities. “The order is only temporary, so what we need is for universities to stand up and be counted before there’s a permanent determination – to influence that determination.”
May and Chenjerai Kumanyika, an associate professor in the communication studies department, issued a news release last week announcing their plan to fast for the duration of this week in response to the order restricting travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. The professors were joined this morning by a third Clemson faculty member, Mike Sears, who is an associate professor in the biological sciences department. The trio plans to stay on the steps of Sikes Hall, where Clemson President Jim Clements’ office is located, during business hours for the entire week, leaving only to teach their classes. They plan to end their fast Sunday.
Clemson professors plan fast to protest Trump’s order
“I think the fast is a way of symbolically showing solidarity with people who are actually hungry,” Kumanyika said. “For instance, recent estimates have said something like 6.6 million people are internally displaced in Syria, and many of them are trying to go to Turkey to come here and because of this ban, they can’t. They’re suffering, they’re in war-torn conditions – so they’re actually hungry.”
The objective is to get Clemson on the list of other large universities that have spoken out against Trump’s executive order. Several colleges, including Vanderbilt and Duke universities, have presidents who have released statements in support of those affected by the executive order, May said.
He also said he and his colleagues have not heard from Clements, though they hope their efforts to publicly pressure him will encourage a response.
“President Clements knows we’re here, he knows what’s going on. I think he just has to listen to his community,” Kumanyika said. “I think he has a chance to make us proud of the university’s response, but we’re not there yet.”
Many students and faculty have expressed their desire to have Clements release a statement over the past week, and Mark Land, Clemson vice president of university relations, said that’s perfectly fine.
“Public universities are places where a diversity of opinion is welcome. As such, Clemson University respects the rights of its employees and students to voice their views on the issues of the day in a peaceful and respectful manner,” Land wrote in an email.
Sitting in front of a small, folding table at the front of Sikes Hall, the three professors said they hope their hunger strike will direct attention toward those who actually are going hungry as a result of circumstances out of their control.
“We’re going to be hungry for a few days, but the people we’re trying to stand with? They can’t eat when they want to,” May said. “They can’t break their fast on Sunday morning. Those are the people who need to be recognized.”