Engineering grads send letters to local government

Following their Iron Ring Ceremony Feb. 4, UW’s graduating engineers convened in the SLC Great Hall to put their newly-impressed civic responsibility to work. Armed with pen, paper, and envelopes, the engineers began writing letters to their local MPs to speak up about the issues they see around them.

The movement, started by engineering students Jenny Wen and Joey Loi, was inspired by the refugee ban implemented in the U.S. late January. The ban, which originally barred entry to refugees and even green card or visa holders from seven Muslim countries, saw massive protests in the U.S., Canada, and around the world, and motivated the engineers to action.

“In light of the events of this past week, Joey Loi and I have been thinking about what we, as young people and as newly minted engineers of the future, can do for people who are being affected by #MuslimBan,” Wen wrote on the event’s Facebook page. “We thought about how appropriate it might be that the first thing we do with our iron rings could be an act of civic duty and responsibility.”

From there, however, the event expanded to include anyone who wanted to voice their concerns.

Photos by Matt Lawes.

“When we first started this event, it was about, primarily, the refugee ban and that issue,” Loi told Imprint.  “But we’re opening it up to whatever issue people care about, just writing to their MP and getting them familiar with the activity of civic engagement.”

“We want it to be, regardless of your opinion on the refugee ban or anything else that’s going on in politics, we wanted to just have people have a little part of their day to do something that’s just civically engaging, because we know that we don’t really do that all the time,” Wen added.

Another factor motivating the engineers was the Iron Ring Ceremony they had finished just moments before the event began, which tasks engineers with the civic responsibility attached to their profession.

“[The ring] is supposed to represent integrity and honesty, and being good young citizens, it’s good duty to our profession and as students and whatnot. So, kind of on a whim, we were like ‘why don’t we just get everyone together after the ring ceremony to write letters?’ It’s kind of the least we could do, but it’s also very symbolic as to what the ring represents. It’s something people might not take the time out of their day to do normally, but if we all get together, we could get everyone to do it,” Wen said.

Though the letter-writing session had no agenda other than civic engagement, the Muslim ban in the U.S. resonated strongly with many attendees.

“We just wanted to show support, I guess,”  engineering student Atef Chaudhury said. “This is largely addressing the actions that are happening in the U.S., and we wanted to show support for all of those who were denied access, and keep up the ethos of openness that Canadians celebrate.”

There was concern among students about ways the ban could affect them or people around them, both personally and professionally.

“A friend of a friend of mine was a third-year Ph.D student at MIT, and because of the issue … he’s basically an Iranian citizen, but he came to the United States on a student visa, and because of the refugee ban, they denied him at the border to return to his studies at MIT, as a third-year Ph.D. He had to go back to Iran, because he was unable to enter the country, and his education is up in the air. He put so many years of effort into his education, and now he can’t continue through with it,” Hossein Mayanloo, a fellow engineering student, said.

“Another friend of mine, he was unsure whether or not he could visit his brother in the U.S., who’s working at Apple, because of the whole issue with him being an Iranian citizen and not being able to enter,” Mayanloo added.

As the students wrote to local government about the matters that concerns them most, the peaceful engagement of civic duty provided a welcome reprieve from the political tension spreading elsewhere.


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