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Is Campus Violence in US Scaring Foreign Students?

FILE - A fire set by demonstrators protesting a scheduled speaking appearance by Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos burns on Sproul Plaza on the University of California, Berkeley campus, Feb. 1, 2017.
FILE - A fire set by demonstrators protesting a scheduled speaking appearance by Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos burns on Sproul Plaza on the University of California, Berkeley campus, Feb. 1, 2017.

As violence unfolded near the University of Virginia-Charlottesville recently, international students about to start school in the U.S. asked themselves: “What just happened?”

Devesh Sahai, a junior in economics and foreign affairs at the University of Virginia-Charlottesville (UVA), was in India when Charlottesville dissolved into violence. He said he has never felt threatened by white supremacy and has not faced discrimination since he joined UVA in fall 2015.

But the events in a park near campus made him “a lot more cautious” when he returned this fall.

“On several occasions, I have had to deal with ignorance towards my cultural background, but at no point have I found this ignorance malicious,” said Sahai.

Among the uninformed questions about his ethnicity?

“What part of India is Dubai in?” or “Do you speak Indian?” Sahai explained. (Answer: Dubai is a city in the United Arab Emirates along the Persian Gulf. And, most of India speaks English because the British colonized the country for nearly 200 years.)

UVA hired Virginia firm MSA Security to assess safety-risks for large campus events, and it has increased campus police on UVA grounds, among other safety measures, according to University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan on Thursday.

“Such events obviously make you consider the limitations of freedom of expression,” Sahai said. “While an integral tenet of democracy, freedom of expression needs to have boundaries … freedom of expression needs to be curtailed the moment it turns violent.”

Ali Muhsen, an environmental systems engineering senior at the Pennsylvania State University in State College from Kuwait, has weighed freedom of expression on college campuses. He says he is against it becoming a platform for “hate,” or “supremacy.”

“Giving a stage and an audience to someone who will encourage and spread hatred is not something I’d ever encourage,” wrote Muhsen to VOA Student Union.

At UC-Berkeley, 132 faculty members are pondering the same issues.

The faculty members have written to the campus community and called for a boycott of classes and campus activities during “Free Speech Week” September 24-27. The Berkeley Patriot, a conservative student group, said it had invited conservative personalities Milo Yiannopoulos, Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter to speak.

“As faculty, we cannot ask students and staff to choose between risking their physical and mental safety in order to attend class or come to work in an environment of harassment, intimidation, violence and militarized policing,” the faculty letter stated.

But this week, Bannon and Coulter said they would not be at the event because of "logistical issues," the Daily Californian reported.

Muhsen moved to the United States to study for an undergraduate degree in engineering in fall 2012, he said. He is part of the Kuwaiti Student Association on campus and is managing public relations for his club this semester.

Like Sahai, Muhsen said he has not faced discrimination in the United States, except when someone used a “racial slur” against him at a pit stop enroute to another city, he recalled.

White supremacy “doesn’t frighten me because I have hope that the world will not allow for such a thing to continue and grow stronger,” Muhsen wrote to VOA StudentU.

Neither does it frighten Jack Liu, an agribusiness management junior at the Michigan State University, who said he sometimes feels unsafe on campus because of the “unpredictable” nature of colleges campuses across the United States.

“It's like we never know what is going to happen in next second no matter where you are.”

Liu who is from Zhengzhou, China, moved to the United States for college in fall 2015.

While Sahai, Muhsen and Liu say they don’t worry about white supremacy, its presence continues to grow on college campuses, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Since September 2016, 188 instances of white supremacist propaganda have been identified on 126 college campuses in 39 states, it said in a press release.

Liu hopes that incidences of violence such as Charlottesville never occur at MSU or any other campus in the future.

“It was terrible what happened,” he wrote to VOA StudentU, “and it made students want to hide in fear or be afraid.”

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Survey: Social integration, career prep are important to international students

FILE - FILE - In this March 14, 2019, file photo students walk on the Stanford University campus in Santa Clara, Calif.
FILE - FILE - In this March 14, 2019, file photo students walk on the Stanford University campus in Santa Clara, Calif.

A recent survey of international students in the United States found that before starting school, they were concerned about personal safety, making friends and feeling homesick.

Inside Higher Ed reports that international students want specialized orientations, peer connections, career preparation and job placement to help make their college experiences successful. (July 2024)

US advisory council ends Nigeria visit, signs student exchange deal

Deniece Laurent-Mantey is the executive director of U.S President's Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement.
Deniece Laurent-Mantey is the executive director of U.S President's Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement.

Members of a U.S. presidential advisory council have approved a student exchange deal between an American college and a Nigerian university as part of the council's effort to strengthen collaboration on education, health, entrepreneurship and development between Africa and Africans living abroad.

The council also visited a health facility supported by the United States Agency for International Development in the capital.

Nigerian authorities and visitors chatted with members of the U.S President's Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement as they toured a healthcare facility in Karu, a suburb of Abuja, on the last day of the council's three-day visit to Abuja and Lagos.

The facility is one of many supported by the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, to improve the management of childhood illnesses, family planning, immunization and delivery.

The tour was part of the council's effort to promote African diaspora-led investments in technology entrepreneurship, education and healthcare delivery.

"They're doing a phenomenal job there, it really gave us a sense of what the healthcare system is in Nigeria," said Deniece Laurent-Mantey, executive director of the advisory council. "This is our first trip as a council to the continent and we chose Nigeria for a reason — the diaspora in Nigeria is very active, very influential, and they're really a source of strength when it comes to our U.S.-Africa policy. And so for us coming to Nigeria was very intentional."

The council was created by President Joe Biden in September to improve collaboration between Africa and its diaspora in terms of economic and social development.

Akila Udoji, manager of the Primary Healthcare Centre of Karu, said officials in Nigeria were pleased that the council members were able to visit.

"We're happy that they have seen what the money they have given to us to work with has been used to do, because they have been able to assist us in capacity-building, trainings, equipment supply and the makeover of the facility," Udoji said.

Earlier, the council signed a deal for a student exchange program between Spelman College in the southern U.S. city of Atlanta and Nigeria's University of Lagos.

Laurent-Mantey said education exchanges are one of the council's top priorities.

"In Lagos, we had the president of Spelman College — she's also a member of our council — she signed an agreement with the University of Lagos to further education exchange programs in STEM and creative industries between those two universities," Laurent-Mantey said. "And I think for us it's very important, because Spelman College is a historically Black university, and so here we are promoting the importance of collaboration between African Americans and Africans."

In March, the advisory council adopted its first set of recommendations for the U.S. president, including the student exchange initiative, advocating for more U.S. government support for Africa, climate-focused initiatives, and improving U.S. visa access for Africans.

The council met with Nigerian health and foreign affairs officials during the visit before leaving the country on Wednesday.

American Academy of the Arts College announces closure

FILE - Signs and writing denouncing the closure of the University of the Arts are seen at Dorrance Hamilton Hall on June 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. More recently, the American Academy of the Arts College in Chicago announced it would close.
FILE - Signs and writing denouncing the closure of the University of the Arts are seen at Dorrance Hamilton Hall on June 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. More recently, the American Academy of the Arts College in Chicago announced it would close.

The American Academy of Art College in Chicago announced it would be closing after 101 years of preparing students for careers in art and illustration.

WTTW news reported that like other art colleges, the academy saw enrollment drop after the pandemic, and officials made the decision to close the college last month. (July 2024)

update

5 killed, dozens injured in clashes over Bangladesh jobs quota system

Protesters of Bangladesh's quota system for government jobs clash with students who back the ruling Awami League party in Dhaka on July 16, 2024.
Protesters of Bangladesh's quota system for government jobs clash with students who back the ruling Awami League party in Dhaka on July 16, 2024.

At least 5 people were killed and dozens injured in two separate incidents in Bangladesh as violence continued Tuesday on university campuses in the nation's capital and elsewhere over a government jobs quota system, local media reports said quoting officials.

At least three of the dead were students and one was a pedestrian, the media reports said. Another man who died in Dhaka remained unidentified.

The deaths were reported Tuesday after overnight violence at a public university near Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka. The violence involved members of a pro-government student body and other students, when police fired tear gas and charged the protesters with batons during the clashes, which spread at Jahangir Nagar University in Savar, outside Dhaka, according to students and authorities.

Protesters have been demanding an end to a quota reserved for family members of veterans who fought in Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971, which allows them to take up 30% of governmental jobs.

They argue that quota appointments are discriminatory and should be merit-based. Some said the current system benefits groups supporting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Some Cabinet ministers criticized the protesters, saying they played on students' emotions.

The Bengali-language Prothom Alo daily newspaper reported that one person died in Dhaka and three others, including a pedestrian, were killed after they suffered injuries during violence in Chattogram, a southeastern district, on Tuesday.

Prothom Alo and other media reports also said that a 22-year-old protester died in the northern district of Rangpur.

Details of the casualties could not be confirmed immediately.

Students clash over the quota system for government jobs in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on July 16, 2024.
Students clash over the quota system for government jobs in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on July 16, 2024.

While job opportunities have expanded in Bangladesh's private sector, many find government jobs stable and lucrative. Each year, some 3,000 such jobs open up to nearly 400,000 graduates.

Hasina said Tuesday that war veterans — commonly known as "freedom fighters" — should receive the highest respect for their sacrifice in 1971 regardless of their current political ideologies.

"Abandoning the dream of their own life, leaving behind their families, parents and everything, they joined the war with whatever they had," she said during an event at her office in Dhaka.

Protesters gathered in front of the university's official residence of the vice chancellor early Tuesday when violence broke out. Demonstrators accused the Bangladesh Chhatra League, a student wing of Hasina's ruling Awami League party, of attacking their "peaceful protests." According to local media reports, police and the ruling party-backed student wing attacked the protesters.

But Abdullahil Kafi, a senior police official, told the country's leading English-language newspaper Daily Star that they fired tear gas and "blank rounds" as protesters attacked the police. He said up to 15 police officers were injured.

More than 50 people were treated at Enam Medical College Hospital near Jahangir Nagar University as the violence continued for hours, said Ali Bin Solaiman, a medical officer of the hospital. He said at least 30 of them suffered pellet wounds.

On Monday, violence also spread at Dhaka University, the country's leading public university, as clashes gripped the campus in the capital. More than 100 students were injured in the clashes, police said.

On Tuesday, protesters blocked railways and some highways across the country, and in Dhaka, they halted traffic in many areas as they vowed to continue demonstrating until the demands were met.

Local media said police forces were spread across the capital to safeguard the peace.

Swapon, a protester and student at Dhaka University who gave only his first name, said they want the "rational reformation of the quota scheme." He said that after studying for six years, if he can't find a job, "it will cause me and my family to suffer."

Protesters say they are apolitical, but leaders of the ruling parties accused the opposition of using the demonstrations for political gains.

A ruling party-backed student activist, who refused to give his name, told The Associated Press that the protesters with the help of "goons" of the opposition's Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami party vandalized their rooms at the student dormitories near the Curzon Hall of Dhaka University.

The family-of-the-veterans quota system was halted following a court order after mass student protests in 2018. But last month, Bangladesh's High Court nulled the decision to reinstate the system once more, angering scores of students and triggering protests.

Last week, the Supreme Court suspended the High Court's order for four weeks and the chief justice asked protesting students to return to their classes, saying the court would issue a decision in four weeks.

However, the protests have continued daily, halting traffic in Dhaka.

The quota system also reserves government jobs for women, disabled people and ethnic minority groups, but students have protested against only the veterans system.

Hasina maintained power in an election in January that was again boycotted by the country's main opposition party and its allies due to Hasina's refusal to step down and hand over power to a caretaker government to oversee the election.

Her party favors keeping the quota for the families of the 1971 war heroes after her Awami League party, under the leadership of her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, led the independence war with the help of India. Rahman was assassinated along with most of his family members in a military coup in 1975.

Police open hazing investigation after Dartmouth student found dead

FILE - A student walks on the campus of Dartmouth College, Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Hanover, N.H.
FILE - A student walks on the campus of Dartmouth College, Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Hanover, N.H.

Police have opened a hazing investigation after a Dartmouth College student was found dead in a river in early July.

Police received a tip that hazing was involved, and there was evidence that alcohol might have been involved in the death, USA Today reported. (July 2024)

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