Mr. President-Elect, You Are Mistaken: We Welcome Refugees at The Ohio State University

OSU Blog

Following the violent attack on The Ohio State University’s campus on November 28, 2016,  President Elect Donald Trump visited OSU.  In this article originally published on Daily Kos, Kelly Yotebieng, Eleanor Paynter, and Hollie Nyseth Brehm provide an insightful commentary of the attack and the President Elect’s visit:

Donald J. Trump visited the Ohio State University today to meet with victims and first responders to Monday, November 28th’s violent attack on campus. While we commend him for taking the time to meet with these individuals, we would have hoped that he could have spent a few more hours while he was here to speak with some of the community who is reeling from these events. Let’s start with some background.

After spending most of the morning of November 28th hiding in our Ohio State offices and classrooms, or staying far from campus out of fear, we learned that the perpetrator of the attack that injured 13 people was Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a Somali refugee. For us, the morning’s fears morphed into dread—not dread of refugees but rather dread for them, and for the repercussions this news could have on local Somali, refugee, and Muslim communities.

Yet, while some online responses have incited fear in the Muslim and Somali communities, members of the Ohio State campus community have responded with open hearts. Student organizations shared messages of support for their Somali and Muslim peers. The day after, student groups set up tables in common areas to offer comfort and fellowship for those still in shock or needing to talk about Monday’s events. More than 500 faculty, students, and staff attended last Tuesday evening’s #Buckeyestrong event to “listen, learn, and heal as a community.” Off-campus, communities have organized prayer vigils and held open houses at mosques. Nearly 1,000 Columbus residents attended a #columbusunited march, which included chants in support of refugees.

Then, at 3:20 on Wednesday morning, President-elect Trump tweeted: “ISIS is taking credit for the terrible stabbing attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who should not have been in our country.” These words were reiterated at his rally last Thursday.  As faculty, researchers, and students at Ohio State, and as residents of Columbus, we support the effort to reach out to victims but remain horrified by Mr. Trump’s first public responses to the incident and by the potential implications of his remarks and visit on campus and community climate. We offer these comments in response.

First, let’s talk numbers. The 16,596 refugees resettled in the Columbus area between 1983 and 2014—and the tens of thousands of refugees who have moved here from other U.S. locations—run businesses, lead local faith communities, and study at local colleges. They learn English, develop new job skills, march in our Fourth of July parades, and become citizens. And, according to a 2015 report entitled Impact of Refugees in Central Ohio, Columbus refugee communities support approximately 21,300 jobs in the greater metro area. We are talking about an annual economic impact of $1.6 billion, including $36 million in spending. Many other impacts on our community, such as the integral role refugees play in aid organizations, as mentors, and in facilitating summer programs for children throughout Franklin County, cannot be quantified but are arguably just as significant… Read the conclusion on Daily Kos


Kelly Yotebieng is pursuing her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology  at the Ohio State University focusing on resilience among urban refugees in Cameroon. She has worked with refugees overseas and in the context of refugee resettlement in the United States since 2004.

Eleanor Paynter is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Comparative Studies at the Ohio State University, studying literature and migration. Her work focuses on refugee narratives, memory, and national identity.

Dr. Hollie Nyseth Brehm is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Ohio State University. Her work examines the causes of genocide and how countries rebuild in the aftermath of mass violence. 

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