The Associated Students (A.S.) Senate plans to pass a resolution next Wednesday to allocate university spots and academic scholarships to the Syrian refugees displaced from their home universities.
Senators Bianca Fernandez and Batsheva Stoll authored the resolution and presented it at the meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 18. The resolution is part of a UC-wide movement to join the Institute for International Education (IIE) Syrian Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis.
So far, participating universities have collected 17,635 signatures in support of scholarships for Syrian students.
The IIE Syrian Consortium is a group of international universities that have allocated admission space for Syrian students and provided them with scholarships to help them attend school while their own country remains unsafe in an ongoing war.
Funded by the Clinton Foundation, the United Nations and other global organizations, the goal of the scholarship program is to help Syrian students continue their education and rebuild their country.
The program also offers scholarships, leadership training and conducts research on how to improve global higher education.
When refugees are forced to escape their country, the students must temporarily abandon their education. The IIC Syrian Consortium plans for these Syrian students to attend college in other countries and then return home to become leaders.
If the resolution passes, UCSB would be the fourth school in the UC system to officially petition the Regents to join the IIE Syrian Consortium, alongside UC Davis, UC Irvine and UC Berkeley. Of the three, UC Davis is the only school that has already enrolled Syrian refugee students.
The resolution was brought to the Senate’s attention by “Books Not Bombs,” a campaign founded in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The goal of “Books Not Bombs” is to encourage universities to join the IIE Syria Consortium.
According to the resolution, 90,000 to 110,000 Syrian students qualify for university admission “based on pre-war enrollment estimates.”
American citizens would not be affected if the resolution were adopted because the student positions and financial aid would exclusively come from funding reserved for international students.
Syrian students would get priority admission over other international students because of their country’s need for education.
If the resolution is passed at UCSB, the UC and the program may face political backlash from conservative groups across the nation.
Nawar Nameh, a third-year history of public policy and global studies double major, said he believes the Syrian students’ efforts to attend American universities could be thwarted by the Trump administration.
“I’m very worried about that,” Nameh said. “They might start passing executive action that could curtail immigration completely.”
The refugees are arriving in the United States through regular means of immigration, so their entry could be threatened by President Trump’s executive order, which was drafted Wednesday, to temporarily block refugees from entering the United States and suspend visas of those from Syria and six other Middle Eastern countries.
“These refugees would be coming through standard immigration paths, so if these paths get shut down, then there’s no way for them to get here,” Nameh said. “Then we’re going to have to address a much bigger issue.”
The resolution is currently in the A.S. External Committee, which will discuss it further in a meeting Friday. If it passes through the committee, it will be considered and voted on at the A.S. Senate meeting on Feb. 1.
A version of this story appeared on p. 3 of the Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 edition of the Daily Nexus.
Correction: Participating universities have gained 17,665 signatures in support of scholarships for Syrian students, they have not created that number of scholarships.