Rollins, in a historic move, joined Guilford College in North Carolina to become the second school in the nation to house refugees. The news was met by praise from most of our community but—much to our dismay—garnered outrage and protest from others. Some questioned our patriotism in helping foreigners before helping our own citizens and others expressed concerns for the safety of the students.
We feel that those who find Rollins’ decision to offer hospitality to a family in need may have failed to read the mission of the College. Please allow us to briefly outline it for you:
This mission has been shared by professors, posted around campus, and hammered into our skulls since we first arrived as freshmen. The most important part of Rollins’ Mission Statement is summarized within the first ten words: “Rollins College educates students for global citizenship and responsible leadership.” In extending a welcome to those who desperately need a home, our school has taken its historic commitment seriously.
This promise provides context for every action the college takes. The term “global citizen” can be easily defined as a “person who places their identity with a ‘global community’ above their identity as a citizen of a particular nation or group.” Rollins’ goal of promoting global identity within their mission is to influence students to venture out of their comfort zones politically and geographically to promote hospitality and coexistence on a larger scale among humanity. Welcoming our first refugee family—a mother, father, and their four year old son from Colombia—is a way for faculty, staff, and students to be global citizens right here on our campus.
In a time when global cooperation is more important than ever, we cannot afford to stick our heads in the sand. We do not exist in a vacuum; Rollins recognizes this. How can we boldly claim in our mission statement that global citizenship is a core belief if we do nothing to address that which happens outside our borders?
The most prominent argument against housing refugees—which we will examine in a moment—is that providing resources for this family will somehow use up resources that should be provided to people from our backyard, specifically homeless veterans. What the people raising this concern do not realize is that Rollins is already a participant in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which funds the education of eligible veterans in any Rollins program through aid from the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the College itself.
What’s more: housing this family comes at virtually no cost to the College or anyone attending or working for it. With no opportunity cost or expense lost, there is absolutely no reason other than fear of the unknown to not extend a hand to these refugees.
As to specific, recently heightened fears of radicalized violence: students at Rollins are at no risk. This family is already part of the Rollins family, and we know them well. But as to anti-refugee attitudes, The Sandspur would like to say this: our nation’s past leaders—Democratic and Republican alike (see the policies of Ronald Reagan and more)—have understood that welcoming refugees is an efficient measure to decrease radicalization by showing understanding and acceptance.
The work of education pertaining to global citizenship is to extinguish and eradicate this fear. It has no place in an increasingly globalized society, and it has no place on a campus that has historically taken gracious steps forward out of hope rather than hiding away in the dark. Rollins students will graduate with the immense benefits of global citizenship, but they must choose to act as global citizens here and now.