Vanderbilt University and 16 other universities listed among U.S. News and World Report’s top 25 universities filed an amicus brief Feb. 13 opposing the executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” filed by President Donald J. Trump on Jan. 27. The brief urges that the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington’s stay of the order be upheld.
“We support the continued stay of the Jan. 27 Executive Order because we believe the order does material harm to our ability to attract and recruit the very best scholars from around the world,” Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said in a press release. “We also believe the order has the potential to reverse the great strides Vanderbilt has made in creating and nurturing a welcoming campus environment that reflects the global and diverse world that our students will enter upon graduation.”
An amicus curiae brief is Latin for “friend of the court,” and is filed by parties who are not part of the litigation, but who have a vested interest in the outcome of a case. The court uses amicus brief to consider relevant views of those who are affected by the outcome of litigation.
Each school, including Vanderbilt, filed an interest of amici, explaining why this Executive Order threatens their ability “to educate future leaders from nearly every continent,” according to the document. In data provided in the footnote of the brief, Vanderbilt’s undergraduate population is made up of 7.6% international students, and 23.2% of the graduate school students are from abroad.
“Vanderbilt University is a center for scholarly research, informed and creative teaching, and service to the community and society at large. . . . In pursuit of these goals, Vanderbilt values most highly intellectual freedom that supports open inquiry, equality, compassion, and excellence in all endeavors,” the school wrote, summarizing their mission, values and goals.
The Vanderbilt Office of General Counsel worked with its counterparts at peer universities as well as the law firm Jenner & Block to write, edit and submit the brief on behalf of the seventeen schools, according to Melanie Moran, Executive Director of Integrated Communications at Vanderbilt. The last time Vanderbilt filed an amicus brief was in the 2015 case Fisher v. University of Texas, supporting the continued consideration of race as one factor among many in admissions decisions.
The press release on the brief also cites international research as a motivation for becoming a signatory of the brief.
“In addition to recruiting the best students, some of the most exciting research and discoveries taking place on our campus are fueled by partnerships with international researchers,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente said in the release. “These scholars must be able to travel freely to conduct their work and to continue our work together. We support policies that ensure safe and legal travel while maintaining the freedom of individuals to pursue their research, scholarship, art and discovery without fear of being detained or delayed.”
According to the press release, the brief is being filed in pending litigation on the Executive Order in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. In addition to Vanderbilt, the brief is being submitted jointly by Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and Yale University.
“The university will closely monitor the outcome of this case and other developments to determine if and when our engagement can further promote policies that support our continued ability to recruit and support the most talented students, faculty and staff from around the world,” Moran said.