Brown University's president warns Trump's policies may harm American academia

Gwyn Heidi Ng and Xenia Tan | Special to CNBC
Brown University still wants international students
Brown University still wants international students

As the era of Donald Trump's presidency gets under way, university heads need to speak up about wanting international students, according to Brown University President Christina Paxson.

"They are vital for what we do," she told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday about international students on campus.

Her comments came in response to a Trump order signed earlier this month that restricts immigration from some Muslim-majority nations. Paxson said Brown University had "a couple students who are still not able to get back into Brown to do their education."

Trump's latest immigration order watered down an earlier ban, removing Iraq from the list, and no longer barring any lawful permanent residents from entering. Although the order has been blocked by the courts, it has left disruption and confusion in its wake.

"The president, his policies, are sending out a message to the world that international students may not be welcome in the U.S." Paxson said.

Aside from the immigration ban, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced earlier this month that it will suspend the expedition of H-1B visa processing from April 3 onward, which Paxson said could mean graduating international students may find it harder to get jobs.

Trump's policies won't last forever: Brown University president
Trump's policies won't last forever: Brown University president

"We use H1-Bs to hire faculty, to hire researchers, post-docs. So that's received less attention, but at the end of the day, that may have more of an impact than the executive order," Paxson said.

The H1-B visa allows highly skilled international citizens to work in the U.S. temporarily, and has come under heavy criticism for allegedly stealing U.S. jobs and undercutting salaries. Trump has said he intends to roll out a work visa reform, and reports indicate that overhaul looks likely to reduce visa quotas and impose restrictions on international students.

Given an increasingly populist political environment, Paxson said: "I think that it's more important than ever that we stand up and say: Look what universities like Brown University do, we're all about advancing knowledge, we're about discovery, we're about creating what I think of as global public goods."

And while it might be difficult to uphold values of the university with the current U.S. administration, "policies are not going to last forever," she said, pointing out that Brown has been around for over 250 years and "the president will not be around that long."

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