We have had several hundred separate Duke students go to the meme page and ask if we had headshots of the faculty who chose to vilify international students. We, the International Association, were unable to provide them with the headshots of these faculty members. However, we decided to share with the larger Duke community some thoughts to reflect on.
There is an implicit social contract between the Duke administration and the international students that their well being is Duke’s first priority. Depressingly, the way this contract is viewed by administration is akin to how Duke students view bus schedules shown on the Rider app—a joke. While Duke is happy to take the full tuition paid by international students and the groundbreaking research and work being done by several of its international academic community, it is not happy to allow them the right to express their national and cultural identity (IN THE PRIVACY OF A PERSONAL CONVERSATION). Duke has required all undergraduate students to complete foreign language studies, but apparently it expects us to abandon all our foreign language skills once we enter its graduate programs.
To faculty members, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE remember that it is not the job of international students to constantly prove their proficiency in English when they have already done so to gain admission into Duke. You have no idea how hard it is for international students to come to the U.S. and learn in a non-native language. In fact, you also have no idea how important it is for them to speak in their mother tongues as a way to feel at home, feel a sense of belonging, and connect with their cultural identities. When someone is speaking in a foreign language, and you feel like they are talking about you. It almost certainly is not about you. You are not that interesting. As such, we have the upmost respect...NOT!...for the frustration you have imposed on international students with your email. That being said, we encourage you to commit to being a decent human being 100% of the time whether you are at Duke or at any other place in life.
Copying all administrators as a reminder given the endless list of equity issues that still need to be addressed and resolved on this campus.
Happy to discuss more. Just stop by our weekly meetings on Mondays at 7 p.m. in the CMA Resource Room.
In all seriousness, even though Dr. Neely has stepped down as director of graduate studies, there is still a lot more work to be done. International Association has long been trying to bring about policy changes on campus for years to improve the university’s support for Duke’s international community. However, most, if not all our pleas have been ignored or lost in bureaucratic processes. The International House, whose mission is to provide educational programs, services and advocacy to Duke’s global community, cannot even earn a proper space on West or East Campus. There, the hardworking staff have been forced to do their best from a remote location where most undergraduate students cannot conveniently access its great support. Their efforts and the value of the existence of an umbrella institution for the international community at Duke have not been sufficiently acknowledged and appreciated by the university, let alone being adequately funded. So many international students at Duke have gone all four years without ever even knowing that such a resource exists.
This lack of visibility and accessibility only further contributes to the general unavailability of resources that international students receive. On many fronts, Duke is sending a very clear message that it does not value its international students as much as it values its domestic students. For starters, Duke does not offer need-blind admission to international applicants, which results in a disproportionately affluent international student body. The message is clear: we only want you if you can pay. This dynamic generates a complicated relationship between low-income, international students and the university, and ultimately amplifies alienation and ostracization on campus.
Take O-Week as another example: international first-years arrive onto an empty campus for international orientation and are expected to go through the move-in process entirely alone, many arriving even without their parents; for many, this is their first time in the United States. Contrast this to the excitement and buzz generated from the move-in party when domestic students arrive on campus a few days later. The underwhelming reception given to internationals often exacerbates the feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and isolation that any first-year student is likely to experience. When it comes to professional career search, the lack of structured curricular practical training programs, which would allow international students from all majors to complete internships in a field of their interest, deepens the challenges faced by non-STEM international students. It forces many of us to make the tough decision between paying $3,000 for an inflexible writing course or shortening the time they can stay in the U.S. by participating in optional practical training after graduation. As graduation season approaches, it is also extremely disappointing for us to find no commencement programs designed for international parents to assist them with travelling logistics, campus navigation, and language translation.
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Now that the New York Times, BBC, CNN, CBS, and the Washington Post have called out Duke and its administration for being irresponsible at best and xenophobic at worst, every administrator is jumping through hoops in order to prove that we, as a university, are not condemnable. But is this because the university genuinely strives to protect its students, or does it only care for its brand? (Don't forget that we have a university campus in China.)
We have just one message for Duke: step up and do better.
This guest column was written by International Association members Helen Yang, a Trinity senior, Sherry Huang, a Trinity senior, Shyam Pradheep, a Trinity junior, and Paulina Guerra, a Trinity junior.