GTFF Statement in Solidarity with African Colleagues

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The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation stands in solidarity with our African colleagues at the University of Oregon. Our union is committed to creating spaces for African students and scholars to gain a sense of community and to advocate together for university policies that provide the material and emotional support required to complete a university degree program.

African students face an array of challenges in pursuing higher education in the U.S., including obstacles in obtaining visas, significant travel-related costs and tuition and fee expenses, and difficulties in making ends meet with the high cost of living. They also experience the shock of adjusting to life in the U.S. and being disconnected from family and community, and also have to contend with systemic and individual racism and pervasive anti-Blackness in U.S. society.

Trump administration’s recent proposals through the Department of Homeland Security to create new limits on the duration of international student visas have disproportionate effects on African students. In particular, DHS is seeking a two-year limit on visa terms for students from specific countries, and 36 of 59 countries on the list are in Africa.

UO should take stock of the difficult circumstances imposed on African students and use its institutional power, along with other universities, to challenge these discriminatory and unjust immigration proposals. The university should also allocate financial resources and develop support networks aimed at retaining African students based on the identification of specific needs and oriented around cultivating a deeper sense of community and belonging. However, all of us should examine how our university relates to African countries through research and study abroad programs. Extractive and unequal research and study abroad excursions often evade recognition of how colonialism and imperialism underpin the experiences.

In addition to developing stronger avenues to support African students on campus, university resources should be dedicated to challenging the pernicious connections between the US, through the military and local police departments, and security forces and other repressive entities across the African continent. US police have exported policing methods through joint trainings, including Nigerian police who have come under scrutiny recently, while US-made equipment and weapons have been sold to armies and security forces that are directly responsible for human rights abuses.

In October, protestors took to the streets across Nigeria to oppose longstanding police brutality at the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which was disbanded a few days into mass demonstrations. The movement against police brutality faced further repression at the hands of the state and has opposed the newly created Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) meant to replace SARS. We stand with the EndSARS protestors and recognize that police violence and anti-Black oppression are connected across borders and that our movements of solidarity must have a firm commitment to internationalism.