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Renaissance Society of America Response to Executive Order on Immigration

Thursday, February 2, 2017   (4 Comments)

When Paul Oskar Kristeller, Josephine Waters Bennett, and their colleagues founded the Renaissance Society of America in 1954, they foresaw an organization that would advance learning in Renaissance studies by scholarly exchange among disciplines, especially by means of common research, publication, and meetings among members from a wide variety of fields. They regarded international exchange as a self-evident part of this vision, and the RSA’s Constitution enshrines this: “The promotion of exchanges shall not be limited to the United States, but shall be extended to include cooperation with individuals and groups abroad, both to increase the effectiveness of American scholarship and to promote understanding through development of common interests.”

The Renaissance Society of America is founded on the principle that international collaboration and diversity strengthen our common purpose of scholarly exchange and research. It is for this reason that the RSA has regularly held annual meetings outside the US. The US president’s recent executive order to ban immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven countries, which are majority Muslim, from entering the United States, is at odds with the RSA’s mission. Indeed many other actions of his administration over the last week, such as a budget blueprint that abolishes the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts, will damage our common endeavors in the Renaissance Society: our pursuit of the highest standards of scholarship, our aspiration to educate our students and our publics in critical analysis, and our power to keep alive the life of the mind in the United States and around the world. The Renaissance Society of America joins with other learned societies and educational institutions in calling on the US president to rescind this executive order. The RSA stands against any actions that damage national cultural institutions. Membership in the RSA reaffirms our commitment to international scholarly discourse and support of the humanities.

Over the last week since the executive order was enacted, the RSA has received many inquiries about our upcoming Annual Meeting in Chicago (March 30-April 1). The governance of the Society shares these concerns. Because international scholarly exchange is a founding and essential part of our mission, the Society is committed to enabling all members to attend the Annual Meeting, and to finding feasible ways to disseminate its content. If you are concerned about visa, entry, and exit issues, please contact Executive Director Carla Zecher ( directly and she will work with you to ensure that your scholarship is presented.

We believe that a boycott by scholars on attending scholarly conferences in the US would allow the US president’s executive order to attain its aims and will damage the Society’s ability to carry out its mission. However, if any member of the Society is prevented from attending the conference by the executive order, the Society will work to make remote attendance possible. As a non-profit academic society, we hold an Annual General Meeting every year, which takes place at our conference (on April 1 this year). We believe it is crucial to hold this face-to-face meeting, especially in this year. In this new political climate, it is imperative for the Society and its members to redouble our efforts to achieve our mission, and in particular our objectives of diversity and international cooperation.

The Renaissance Society of America is a member of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), which has also posted a statement. The RSA has recently become a member of the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) as well, and we encourage our members to look at the NHA website for information on initiatives that support our shared goals.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or concerns.


Pamela H. Smith, President
Carla Zecher, Executive Director
On Behalf of the Executive Committee of the Renaissance Society of America


Mara R. Wade says...
Posted Friday, February 17, 2017
Our research is founded on intellectual exchange and mobility. Without the free circulation of ideas and international contact our work becomes narrow and provincial. Thank you for writing andnposting this letter. See you in Chicago, Mara Wade
Simona Cohen says...
Posted Saturday, February 4, 2017
Any action against the racist and religious discrimination and xenophobic policies of the new president is welcome. The American tradition of human values, tolerance and respect for multi-culturalism and interactions between diverse groups is again being threatened (I am recalling McCarthy in the 50s). We are already witnessing the uprising of extreme right racist groups in the U.S.. I am among the many in the US and abroad who feel it is imperative to voice our opposition and protests. Thank you for your letter to members of the RSA. Simona Cohen
Fredrika H. Jacobs says...
Posted Friday, February 3, 2017
Thanks for taking this stand. Having participated in National and local marches since Trump's inauguration, written over 100 letters & postcards, and made many phone calls to state legislators, I feel especially proud to be a long-term member of RSA and its commitment to worldwide intellectual exchange. The current administration's policy violates directly the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution and is an affront to the values that America has been built upon.
Judith Roads says...
Posted Thursday, February 2, 2017
So pleased to receive this empowering message. Here in the UK we are doing everything we can think of to show support. It will be good to get updates on how best we can do that, in solidarity with all those now at odds with the US Administration. I hope Chicago is successful in spite of awful situations.

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