Trump's wall: What it means for colleges

Officials worry most about the symbolism

President Trump signed an executive order last week to build 1,000 miles of border wall between the United States and Mexico. 

Officials in both countries weigh in on how the wall could affect higher education.

Physical impact will be minimal

Fernando León García, president of the university system Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior, said in an email to Inside Higher Ed that a wall is not "a deterrent for colleges and universities to promote and implement cross-border collaboration."

García believes that "collaboration is likely to continue," since colleges in the United States and Mexico are already so intertwined. Despite the wall, colleges and universities are committed to maintaining their collaboration "to develop a global and diverse perspective and greater international understanding, leading to more globally competitive students" wrote García.

Richard Lange, the president of Texas Tech University (TTU)'s Health and Sciences Center in El Paso, stresses the importance of the free exchange of ideas and information across the U.S-Mexico border—especially those related to health issues. 

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"The health on both sides of the border affects the other entity," Lange told Inside Higher Ed. Lange does not believe a wall will directly affect the flow of health-related research, since "that occurs through normal exchange, through normal points of entry on either side, and with bilateral communication and collaboration."

Symbolic impact could be large                            

Josiah Heyman, the director of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies and a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso, says, "The wall is symbolic. It's the United States turning its back on Mexico." Heyman believes the wall "could erode the good relationships that we've built with Mexican students and with Mexican scholars."

Heyman, who is currently engaged in research on sustainable water use in the border area, hopes that the relationships already developed will be resilient.

"We can't go into the future with what could be called a wall mentality, which is that scientifically and socially and economically important issues are stopped at the border."

How to support international students on campus

"If there's a change in policy in how we interact with our neighbors, that's where the impact would occur," says Lange. "That's the wall I'm concerned about... not a physical wall, but a wall that prevents us from being good neighbors" (Carter, Education Dive, 1/26; Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 1/25)

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