Case Overview

U.S. President, Donald Trump issued an executive order on Friday, January 27, stating “immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order” (Trump).  

Friday, January 27, President Donald Trump signed a ban against immigration and travel of people from seven primarily Muslim countries. While this ban was closing a barrier of entry to the country, many worried what impact it would have on current undocumented individuals from those countries who were already in the United States. The city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, being a cultural melting pot, was no doubt home to many with these questions and concerns. However, President Mark Schlissel publicly stated that the university would not be making those documentation records available. Other major universities also followed suit in denying the federal government personal student information. While the Michigan President refused to offer any immigration status information on individual students, the number of “non-resident alien” at large is known. As of the fall 2016 enrollment numbers, the university had over 6700 students with this classification. As an entire student body, that is quite significant as it makes up more than 15% of all enrolled students. Nonetheless, the University of Michigan and President Mark Schlissel stuck with their moral obligation to protect sensitive information of current students.

Immigration Ban for Some Muslim Countries: Modern Day Holocaust Attempt? Business Venture?

Protests ensued throughout the nation because of President Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and the temporary ban of Muslim immigrants from certain countries entering the country as well as traveling within the country. It is a curiosity of why some Muslim countries were included in the ban while others were not.

Tensions Grow at University of Michigan

Schlissel said in a statement following the ban that “university maintains a strong commitment to the privacy of student records for all students, consistent with state and federal laws. We do not provide information on immigration status to anyone except when required by law.” Even so, there was still tension emerging within the University. After the conclusion of the 2016 election, “members of the University of Michigan community gathered in the Diag to hold a vigil about the outcome of the election.” (M.) A statement Schissel made during this vigil had some students upset. So upset that “hundreds of students at the University of Michigan have signed a #NotMyCampus petition condemning university president Mark Schlissel for comments he made…following President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise victory.”  (Fournier)

Cultural Theory

Cultural studies (CS) is a sort of all encompassing field. It is an “interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and sometimes counter disciplinary field that operates in tension between its tendencies to embrace both a broad, anthropological field and a more narrowly humanistic conception of culture” (Nelson, Triechler and Grossberg p4). Here we would like to highlight some main ideas of CS, and why we use it as a theoretical practice: CS is interpretive and evaluative in nature. It encompasses the entire range of society’s arts, beliefs, institutions, and communicative practices. Symbolic and material domains and intellectual and political tradition can be considered during a case study such as this. It is contextual, based upon what is going on with a particular subject. Best of all, cultural studies are a cultural intervention. They are designed to make a difference.

We live in a society where something is bound to connect you with another on some level, even if in concept or belief. This is the socializing effect of Generalized Others (society, rules, and accepted practices) when referring to the commonly used “they.” Humans act toward people or things on the basis of the meanings they assign to those people or things. Meaning arises out of the Social Interaction with each other and is negotiated through the use of language or symbols. This Symbolic Interaction is embedded throughout life to give meaning to people and situations. For example, we learn the meaning of holidays through our family, friends, media, retail stores, books, church, and leaders. Our actual holidays and meanings may vary from each other, but most everyone celebrates holidays in some form. In the same manner, citizens form their own beliefs and opinions on immigration from a multitude of sources.

One cultural methodology of study is Standpoint Theory, which is described as a feminist critical theory of the relations between knowledge and power. It encourages those in power to take a look at alternative (others) views in order to understand how to research a topic rather than just accepting the mainstream ideology.  Hekman (1997) describes the ruling class as the center and the “others” as the periphery. Understanding a subject more thoroughly will help to gather information that is more true to the current reality. “If there are multiple feminist standpoints, then there are must be multiple truths and multiple realities” (Hekman, p351).

Persuasive Theory

Deliberative democracy is an “idealized system in which citizens deliberate before voting and try to make thoughtful judgments for the collective good” (Ozanne, p32). In order for DD to work: citizens must be engaged and informed of the issues, be able to put their own interests aside for the greater good, ability to think things through and have sufficient tolerance of other cultures. It is still unclear if the President and his team went through the proper process to institute the executive order for the ban on seven Muslim countries. It appears that the process was rushed which resulted in confusion within many different branches of government.

This executive order could hurt diversity at institutions within international students which is a marginalized group. The ban was introduced without warning and lacked clarity which resulted in panic not only for students both studying in the U.S. as well as students intending to come to the U.S but homeland security officials trying to decipher who the ban really affected.

CNN announced, “The policy team at the White House developed the executive order on refugees and visas, and largely avoided the traditional interagency process that would have allowed the Justice Department and homeland security agencies to provide operational guidance.” However, White House Administration defended the process and said the necessary departments had been briefed.

In the days to come after the immigration ban was released, several judges reviewed the legality of the executive order, issuing temporary stays and blocking deportation of people detained at airports. Despite these efforts, chaos ensued at border crossings and airports.

The Washington Post reported, “In the process of formulating an executive order, the president’s staff typically reach out to their party’s congressional leaders for feedback. In the case of the travel ban, President Trump declined to do so, leaving leaders in the dark.”

The executive order temporarily revoked visas from the seven countries, including those for people currently living in the United States. This was not publicly announced and only revealed during court proceedings. Which meant that if someone affected by this ban lost their visa they would not be able to re-enter the United States if they left (Kulish et. al).

Due to the unclear rules regarding the immigration ban, universities, in particular University of Michigan, released a statement explaining that they would not release information regarding their students and their immigration status. Remarking that they were staying within their legal rights and also listening to the collective whole of what UM stands for in keep their students and their identities safe.

US News stated, “If it stands, it will over time diminish the scope and strength of the educational and research efforts of American universities, which have been the source not only of intellectual discovery but of economic innovation for the United States and international understanding for our world,” Jenkins said. “And, above all, it will demean our nation, whose true greatness has been its guiding ideals of fairness, welcome to immigrants, compassion for refugees, respect for religious faith and the courageous refusal to compromise its principles in the face of threats.” The University of Michigan is well known for their diverse campus and this ban negatively affects the efforts to internationalize and bring various backgrounds together in one space.

Cultural Supposition

Public policy and organization management can learn from and use the knowledge to produce better lives for the American people as a whole. They call out that “We live in a world of immense and unnecessary suffering and destruction…Facing this human-made misery, a posture of quiet acceptance would mean tacit endorsement” (Adler, p941). A pretty bold statement, in which we would have to repeat in order for it to really sink in…“a posture of quiet acceptance would mean tacit endorsement”. As shown in the graphic below, we need to consider who is affected by the policies we make.

Standpoint Theory can be helpful in taking a look at what’s going on with the “other” if “we begin the research process by formulating questions from these alternative standpoints and then examine the reality of management and organizations from these perspectives” (Adler, p943). Since management scholarship already has public policy implications, it may “provide actionable knowledge for the exploited and their advocates…in this way, it can promote more just and more democratic public policy debate” (Adler, p 943). ST can be used positively in looking at public policy, but has some contradictions when using it as a standalone to research topics.

Case Study Persuasion

Punctuation paradox refers to attempts to bypass or short-circuit steps in the participation process, largely in the interest of efficiency, in ways that ultimately undermine satisfaction with the process and the system itself (Stohl, Cheney, p. 366). Trump bypassed the proper protocol to put into effect the executive order to ban seven Muslim countries from obtaining visas to enter the United States. Stohl et al states, “this kind of participatory short circuit may not only diminish the democratic vitality of the organization as it stands but may also lead to subsequent generations of members simply skipping important democratic procedures altogether (p 367). Trump made several promises on the campaign trail and immigration reform was at the top of his list. As the president has shown, he is the type of person to act first without thinking things through. The immigration ban was hastily put together and rushed through without vetting through the proper channels to review the impact this type of ban may have on the economy, including university international enrollment. Not to mention properly training or explaining the ban to the necessary people such as border patrol to be able to understand who it affects. Creating chaos and panic at airports and border crossings.

Due to the limited information available regarding the ban, the University of Michigan had to act quickly to let their students know that their immigration status would not be shared with the president or immigration officials unless a warrant was brought forth. The way the ban was so carelessly rolled out caused tension not only with students but also university officials on how to ensure their students felt safe and welcome on campus.

Since the campaign trail, Trump has preached that he will do what is necessary to keep America safe. Adaptation paradox “captures the dynamics surrounding the desire to have the program survive and the maintenance of the foundational principles” (Shohl, Cheney p. 363). Part of the executive order issued by the president is to deport non-U.S. citizens with criminal records, the issue arises when the ban affects immigrants with no criminal past. Without consulting and debating the immigration ban, the very foundation of what the United States was built on was put in jeopardy. President Schlissel and the University of Michigan had to choose to stick with protecting student data with the refusal to submit immigration information. Each side feels they are doing what is best for country in Trump’s case and the community as it refers to UM. But when is it crossing the line of adaptation? In this case, when the ban negatively impacted the safety of non-U.S. citizens who are in the United States legally and with merit. UM was willing to fight the battle for this marginal group to keep with the principles of a public university.


President Schlissel backed his decision with jurisdiction, stating that only when required by law would campus police partner with federal, state or other local law enforcement (Slagter). Aside from when legally required, this jurisdiction belongs to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Borders Protection, and not the campus police.

The University of Michigan is also operating under the compliance of another federal law, FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). This law applies to any public educational institution, or any school receiving funds from the United States Department of Education. Under this law, schools are to protect student records and anything they have on file. So again, unless legally required, President Mark Schlissel has taken the stance that he will protect the students of the University of Michigan, and their community as a whole.

Now, of course, every situation has varying standpoints and tension can emerge. To look at the flip side of this, some may argue the university is doing American students an injustice. With more than 15% of the student body being classified “non-resident alien” ( there could be families across the country upset that their child didn’t get into the prestigious University of Michigan, while nearly 7,000 aliens are here taking advantage of the resources. With this being such a sensitive topic, I have to imagine the UM President’s Office caught some heat after these statements were made earlier this year. However, they (Michigan and President Schlissel) made their stand publicly known, and have not shown any signs of flipping, unless legally required as President Schlissel stated.

Aside from the educational component, tensions could arise from those who simply agree with President Trump’s ban, and disagree with President Schlissel’s stance. Perhaps there are those who identify as a conservative who are not on the same page as the university. As one student stated, “DO NOT preach diversity, acceptance, peace, or love, when this university is willing to systematically suppress and discredit the views of anyone who identifies as a conservative. -Justin Korfhage; College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Class of 2019” (Delekta). While this student’s statement is not directly correlated with either side of the “Muslim Ban” debate, it is clear that the student feels his views are not valued.

In the end, The University of Michigan made the correct decision to not disclose the immigration status of students. In his statement, President Schlissel wrote “Fostering an environment that promotes education and research at the highest levels is among my most important responsibilities as the University of Michigan’s president.” and “The leadership of the university is committed to protecting the rights and opportunities currently available to all members of our academic community, and to do whatever is possible within the law to continue to identify, recruit, support and retain academic talent, at all levels, from around the world.” Based on the standpoint of the University of Michigan and President Mark Schlissel, academic excellence and protecting its students is top priority. Despite any heat or negative reaction to these decisions or statements, the right choice was made.


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