But no issue has pit higher education against the Trump administration like the immigration executive orders, which have faced powerful opposition in federal courts and have been blocked or held up.
Nearly 600 presidents of colleges and universities -- public and private, in blue states and red -- signed a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly expressing concern about the order and its impact on the nation's ability to attract "the world's best and brightest students, faculty, and scholars." Some college leaders submitted briefs to bolster the legal case against the immigration ban. And all over the country, presidents and chancellors sent out statements to their communities, held town halls, and tried to reassure their undocumented students, in many cases offering legal assistance and pledging to keep information about their immigration status or national origin private absent a court order.
For all the agreement that such a measure would damage higher education, the tenor of the responses varied greatly, from silence to caution to caustic rebukes, a reflection of the different calculus each campus leader had to make.
Where Gow, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chancellor, unleashed a firestorm with his relatively measured expression of dissent, many private school presidents spoke out forcefully with little fallout or fear.
David W. Leebron, president of Rice University in Houston, wrote that the order was executed "with a callous indifference" to those impacted. In a deeply personal letter to his community about his family's emigration to Canada in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution, Johns Hopkins University president Ronald J. Daniels wrote that the travel ban takes the country down an "ominous path."
Emory University in Atlanta took the additional step of reaching out to applicants for the fall 2017 freshman class to inform them of the university leadership's opposition to the travel ban. Claire E. Sterk, a Dutch public health scholar who became president of Emory last September, said the admissions office sent an email to prospective students so they would know that Emory was "dedicated to values of inclusion, respect and integrity."