The #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign has garnered attention from students and faculty after the Global Education Office started handing out stickers and pamphlets reiterating that students are welcome here at Plattsburgh State. The campaign had kicked off March 1, and has only grown since.
Marketing and Communication Coordinator Michelle Ogne said there are three types of branches in terms of international student mobility.
She said the first two is keeping international students updated with immigration policies, and the second is their study abroad programs. She said the third branch, which is international student recruiting, was definitely a factor when starting up the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign.
“So the #YouAreWelcomeHere has this proactive stance to remind international students all over the world, that regardless of what you see in the media, we haven’t changed the fact that international students are welcome here,” Ogne said.
Ogne said the campaign started with Study New York when they reached out to their partners asking for video and image content of students reinforcing the idea that everyone is welcome on campus.
Study New York’s mission is to work collaboratively with its member colleges, universities and partners through special programs and global outreach to promote New York State internationally as the premier education destination for students and other exchange visitors, according to its official website.
“The hashtag idea is very attached to social media such as our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and so that’s where the campaign lives at first,” Ogne said.
Ogne said there was also an opportunity to design and produce stickers.
“Then when the sticker came back, I thought that this could really take off with this campus,” Ogne said.
“I know about student affairs and faculty and staff, and I know how hopeless everyone feels about wanting to do something and there’s not a whole lot to do. Well, everyone can put a sticker up.”
Ogne said she reached out to Sharon Zalis, who owns Fleet promotional products, and asked for pricing.
Ogne settled on an order of 500 stickers, and a few days later, Fleet emailed back saying she was a community member and was going to provide an additional 500 stickers with no charge.
“I was really grateful. It was a symptom to me that so many people wanted to do something and they don’t know what to do,” Ogne said.
Zalis said that even though she has business responsibilities to pursue, she felt this particular cause was dear to her heart. She said she thought the design of the sticker was also very sharp.
“It adds a vibrancy to the community that I think is great for promoting diversity,” she said.
Ogne said there were a lot of students who came to the GEO office looking for answers, but she hopes the campaign can provide hope.
“If you’re a person who is secure with your citizenship, it’s just a reminder that we do have individuals here who bring us so much value and culture,” she said. “They do get a lot of value from having the opportunity to interact.”
Ogne said that the campaign is broad enough to apply to anyone especially with LGTBQ rights being threatened. Most recently, President Trump rescinded protections for transgender students in public schools that let them use bathrooms with their gender identity.
“At GEO, we primarily aim to support international students, but we support other places on campus such as students of color, students of the LGBTQ community and much more,” Ogne said. “It is a broader application than I had originally even thought of, which I think is fantastic.”
Student Association President Vrinda Kumar agreed that the campaign does expand to everyone regardless of the struggle he or she may face.
“It’s not just about how you look, but it’s also about who you are. We need to welcome people regardless of who they might identify as,” Kumar said.
Kumar said she still has a hard time understanding why bathrooms are an issue in the first place.
“We need the hashtag. We need the campaign right now more than ever right now. I think the country should focus on real sexual assault cases that happen, rather than something they’re assuming will happen for no reason or evidence,” Kumar said. “ I don’t even understand the idea.”
Kumar said that the Student Association has also spearheaded the campaign by asking for stickers and tabling for students to sign a banner, which reads You Are Welcome Here.
“I mean it’s really important because it’s really hard for students who are going through this, and might feel personally attacked by all that’s happening at a national level,” she said. “Even though, it might not change anything legally, it is making me feel welcome and giving me that hope in some way.”
Kumar said that even though the immigration ban was halted, it is something that can happen again. She said it’s important not to lose momentum and become relaxed about these issues.
“It’s just reinforcing the idea that you are welcome here regardless of whatever you look like or where you’re from because that’s the whole concept of America that has been taught by children at a very young age. And if that’s what you teach, then that’s what you should do,” she said. “There are a lot of hate crimes going on, and it’s just really upsetting to look at those things, and that’s why we have to keep reinforcing this. Move the hate away.”
She also said that it’s campaigns like these that are the reason why the executive order was halted. Kumar said there are people who continue to march and fight for their rights. At this point, Kumar said it goes beyond political views. As a PSUC resident assistant, Kumar said she came across a student who refused to sign the banner because he supported Trump.
Kumar said she responded “OK, you can support whoever you want. That’s your right, but this isn’t about politics anymore. It’s about human rights. I’m not asking you your political viewpoint. I’m asking you to have an opinion that someone who looks like me can also have the same rights who looks like you can have.”
He then signed the banner.
“You just have to keep on engaging on these conversations. It’s not always about the red and blue of it,” Kumar said.
Email Kavita Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org