John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Coming…a World Boycott…?

Coming…a World Boycott…?

I have recently attended the 36th Annual Conference on The First-Year Experience. One of my great joys in life, professionally and personally, is this annual renewal learning experience. I am the founder of this conference series now 36 years running as the title states. This series of meetings until recent years was also hosted periodically in countries outside the US. At this year’s meeting there were over 1700 attendees from just over 20 countries. The attention to the first year is truly an international movement.

As I interacted at this meeting I found myself expressing special gratitude to educators who had come to the meeting from outside the country, at a time in our history when our new Presidential administration was attempting to impose a ban on entry into the United States who were members of a particular religious denomination. Not only did I want to thank these non US educators for coming to our suddenly less hospitable country, I also found my embarrassment about our change of official posture extremely embarrassing.

One of the things I have enjoyed the most over these past 36 years is all the wonderful friendships I have made with like-minded higher educators from all over the world, all of whom are working to increase the success of first-year students.

During the conference I received an e-mail from one such former international colleague whose message I am now going to excerpt and quote from where my correspondent is describing a trip he and his wife have been planning to the American southwest in late February, 2017:

“…..We are driving south on Feb.20…a few days in Palm Springs then to Scottsdale for a week and then a week in Las Vegas. We are driving back via Utah and then across to Portland via the Columbia Gorge. We will take about 5 weeks to complete our trip depending on weather. We seriously considered cancelling but because we are meeting my sister and brother-in -law in Arizona we decided to continue. We have decided that this will be our last trip to the US for several years. Our attitude towards the US has turned pretty negative and it as if we are turning against what we believe in from a moral perspective if we continue to travel there. Even though there are lots of great people there and friends like yourself, we will not be going south of the border after this trip. 

Many of our friends feel the same way. Unfortunately, the US has gone from one of the greatest countries in the world to one of the least respected. Our lives won’t change and neither will our decision to avoid the US change the direction your country is headed…..but we will feel better. Our future travel will focus on Canada and perhaps Portugal or Spain. We would love to see the Republicans wake up and act responsibly but I do not think that will happen…

Glad to hear that the FYE conferences are still going strong. I certainly enjoyed working them with you

We just heard from friends in Michigan who have lived there for 32 years that their house is up for sale and they are moving to Victoria ASAP. They have a daughter living in Toronto whom they visit frequently. The attitude of the border guards has changed drastically……in a very negative way….and they are sick of listening to their unsolicited comments………

We have heard that Sarah Palin is a possible candidate as US Ambassador to Canada……hope this does not happen because she is a joke and an insult to the entire political field…

Best wishes……

As I think about the implications of what the message communicated, I think I feel coming on a world-wide boycott of discretionary tourist travel into the United States. This is really going to hurt.


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