Spearheaded by Temple University in Philadelphia, the campaign is backed by a number of US universities that have produced videos of faculty members, staff and students inviting international students to campus.
The #YouAreWelcomeHere hashtag was originally used in a video campaign produced by Study Group. Jessica Sandberg, director of international admissions at Temple University saw it on social media shortly after the presidential election and was spurred to amplify the narrative.
“It’s important that US universities come together on this and send a unified message to let international students know that nothing has changed”
“I felt like it was important that US universities come together on this instead of competing, and send a unified message to let international students know that nothing has changed, that we welcome them, that university campuses are progressive, open-minded, friendly places, and that we truly value that here,” she told The PIE News.
Sandberg maintains that while the videos are not envisioned to be a political statement, they do intend to quell anxieties that prospective students may have about discrimination, safety and the friendliness of US university campuses, following the anti-immigration rhetoric expressed during the recent election campaign.
“Students are asking questions about what is it like to live in Philadelphia, how friendly people are, worried about how foreigners will be received,” she said.
Since the election, 19 universities have produced videos for the campaign, declaring international students are welcome, with around 30 educational institutions and other related organisations sharing the #YouAreWelcomeHere hashtag across social media.
The International English Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, has produced a video, extending welcoming messages in English, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic. Centre director, Patricia Juza, said while this is a “challenging time” for higher education, there is also an opportunity to “illustrate character, integrity, and support for all students”.
“The cumulative effect of campuses communicating their respect for diversity and commitment to providing a welcoming environment where people can live, study, and work together, can significantly move the needle in terms of perceptions,” she said.
Karen Vahey, dean of enrollment management at the New York Institute of Technology, said the campaign will continue to bring together a sector of international and higher education professionals “already so closely united”.
“I think the movement is also shedding light on this issue to local, national and international politicians, community organisations and other higher education professionals who may not have been aware of a threat to international students here in the US,” she said.
Other support has come from EducationUSA and parts of the State Department which have used the hashtag in social media posts.
Universities in the UK launched a similar campaign after the Brexit vote, promoting the #WeAreInternational slogan, which has gained support from 150 institutions, organisations and student unions.