Looking Ahead in a New World, Page 5

Borderline Response
Will new policies limit international students?
by Gail Taylor

IOctober 24 was United Nations Day. With the stars and stripes taped in shop windows and flying from lamp posts all over town, the annual U.N. Day display outside the Oberlin Inn was especially striking: flying were 114 flags representing countries that have sent students to Oberlin College.

As domestic security tightened, it seemed that the vibrant international life of college and university campuses could be one of war’s casualties. Spurred by reports that one or more of the hijackers entered the country on student visas, California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed a six-month moratorium on student visas. She later backed off, proposing instead to bar them for students from seven specific countries.

A tighter tracking system for international students appeared inevitable. Congress moved to bring online a long-proposed and much-delayed electronic system that would provide an identification card for foreign students and require international student advisors to keep the Immigration and Naturalization Service informed of students’ status. The long-protesting Association of International Educators abandoned its objection to the system. At Oberlin, Nicolette Love, international student advisor and assistant dean, worried that new reporting responsibilities would undermine her role as advocate and friend to young people facing the uncertainties of life in a foreign country. But she says, “If I am required to do that, of course, I’ll do that.”

As she spoke, her husband, Associate Director of Admissions Harry Dawe ’58, was traveling in Bulgaria and Turkey, helping to recruit the Class of 2006. Oberlin policy allows accepted students to defer entry for up to two semesters, and, had visas been frozen, that policy could have been invoked.

In his quest to bring the world’s best and brightest to Oberlin, Dawe’s decision to travel in October put him ahead of the pack. At a College fair in Istanbul he came across some booths left empty by recruiters who had decided not to fly. He also found Turkish students still eager to study in the States.

Currently, 260 international students from more than 50 countries study at Oberlin, according to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Debra Chermonte. As of October, she expected the College’s international population to hold steady next year. For international students already here, September 11 and its aftermath seemed to bring the College together as a global community.

Such a rich international mix on campus is just what America needs, says David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, pointing out that the secretary-general of the U.N., the president of Mexico, and the king of Jordan all attended American colleges.

Senior Claire Sturm, a German citizen raised in France and New Zealand, is treasurer of Oberlin’s International Student Organization. She may attend graduate school in the United States and become involved in international policy. She says that bureaucratic hurdles will not deter her. “Despite whatever security measures they take, if I want to go to graduate school, I will go through the whole process,” she says. “If it takes three months of background checks—if it takes six months—I will still do it. I will not be discouraged.” l

Gail Taylor, a freelance writer who lives in Oberlin, is a former lobbyist for Case Western Reserve University.

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