I am teaching GER/GIS/GWS 262: “Refugees in Europe: Germany” for the second time this semester. Obviously the recent change of government in the United States has impacted this course in many ways. As we all know, on January 27th, President Trump signed the Executive Order 13769 “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” limiting – among many other things – the number of refugees to be admitted into the United States in 2017 to 50,000 and suspending the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days. As a consequence, the course has become much more comparative in nature, with students discussing the impact of the Executive Order and drawing parallels to Germany’s refugee policy. Right after the Executive Order was signed, students – as an online assignment on a snow day – wrote a letter to an (imaginary) friend or (imaginary) family member or local, state, or federal elected official, discussing the legal implications of the recent Executive Order in light of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
Another assignment in this class that has been heavily impacted by the above-mentioned Executive Order was the Twitter assignment. Throughout the semester, students are asked to tweet 4 times a week about our course readings and news sources regarding the situation of refugees in Germany and Europe. While students’ privacy is always a major concern, the recent changes in U.S. Customs and Border Protection that make social media accounts part of the screening process clearly affect the privacy and safety of non-US citizens more than ever:
If you travel, know that CBP will open all of your electronic devices (laptop, phone, tablet) and examine the contents. We know of instances where individuals have been turned away for being perceived as “anti-Trump.” If you delete the content on your phone, they will ask for your email username and password. They will do the same for all of your social media accounts. – a newsletter from Global Immigration Partners, sent to me on January 31st.
Again, this is something most of us are probably aware of, but a threat that, in a global classroom with extensive online and social media components, poses itself with particular urgency.
At the same time, the Twitter assignment this semester has triggered even more engaged discussions about its use as a tool for political social media marketing and branding; the challenges to distinguish between facts and lies; and one’s own responsibility to respond (or not to respond) to unsettling responses to one’s own posts.
Like last year, the second half of the semester has been dedicated to the videoconferences with our German interview partners (see my Engage blog post). This year, I have had a larger group or students, raising some of the technical issues that we had discussed during our Technology Workshops throughout the year, so I felt well prepared to address them (as always, thanks to Laura Little for her support!). This semester, we Skyped in a young female refugee from Syria, two volunteers from a private reception center for refugees in Lübeck, a teacher from Hamburg, the organization “Flow” from Lübeck that offers programs for young refugees; and a lawyer who volunteers his time to help refugees with their asylum applications. Our final interview with “KidzCare Lübeck“ is scheduled for May 3rd, focusing on the special situation of female refugees.
On Wednesday, May 10th, we are going to have the public “launch” of our collaborative WordPress site. You’re welcome to join us from 11:50-1:00 at the Visualization Wall in Shain!