A vital part of the college experience is learning to understand and appreciate different perspectives. In a recent column, Felicia Chen drew on her involvement with the International Association to describe challenges that international students face, drawing comparisons to her own upbringing in North Carolina. In a guest column response, Junette Yu took issue with Felicia’s characterizations and argued that the international student experience is more than a set of obstacles. As president of the International Association, I agree that it is valuable to broaden the scope of our discussion about the experiences of international students. That’s why I’m disappointed to find that Junette’s response contains unnecessary personal attacks that detract from the goal of bringing nuanced understanding to the conversation at hand.
Felicia’s column highlights two forms of work authorization that together present a lose-lose situation for international students looking for work experience. In her response, Junette finds that Felicia’s column victimizes international students who worked hard for the opportunity to learn at Duke. Felicia’s article may focus too narrowly on international students wishing to stay in the US, and as Junette points out, this may exclude international students with different goals. But I find Junette’s response to be overly personal. “If you can offer only pity, then please respectfully stay in your lane,” Junette writes, and she later accuses Felicia’s column of being either “egocentric” or “embarrassing”, criticisms that are at best unhelpful. Moreover, as president of IA, I’ve personally worked with Felicia to resolve the CPT crisis of this summer. This is her lane too.
Felicia’s article is a genuine attempt at understanding outside perspectives, fostering cross-cultural dialogue, and highlighting persistent issues in the international student community. While Junette also presents valid points and brings needed nuance to the conversation, several unnecessary personal attacks close off further discussion. In an already contentious debate about the status of immigration in the US, we need people to be informed about and engaged with the issues Felicia addresses. As president of IA, I am disappointed to lose such an opportunity for mutual understanding to a petty debate around character and motivation.
Shyam Pradheep is a Trinity senior and the president of the International Association.