More letters to the Editor
Professor’s visa denial indicates larger problem
To the Editors,
I am writing to inform the Oberlin community of the latest feather on the U.S. homeland security’s disgracefully colorful hat. The History department and the Luce Foundation had collaborated to bring in visiting professor Dr. Ramchandra Guha to Oberlin to teach a 1-week-long series on Ecology and Equity. Dr. Guha had been lecturing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, after which he was going to fly to Cleveland to come to Oberlin. Last Monday, the US border agents in Toronto inexplicably denied Dr. Guha entry into the country and put him on a plane back to India.
Dr. Guha had a legitimate visa (type A B1/B2 on which you can earn money for up to 9 days in up to 5 universities) and a letter of invitation from Oberlin and Berkeley. He has used this type of visa to give numerous other lectures in the U.S., however airport authorities refused to accept his visa. One Official repeatedly said, “How can they pay you so much—and for teaching history?” Dr. Guha’s passport was taken and he was forced to wait for hours in an unheated room with cameras monitoring every word he said. All of this just to face more rebuke from the “supervisor” who gave him his passport and denied him entry.
Professor Guha is an academic of international reputation. He has worked in India, Europe, and North America. He has taught at Berkeley and the universities of Yale, Stanford and Oslo, and has been a Senior Associate Member of St. Anthony’s College and Oxford. Guha is also a recipient of the MacArthur Research and Writing Award for his work on the environment. He has published essays and commentaries in the Times Literary Supplement, Granta, London Magazine, and The Ecologist. He was recently described in the New York Times as “perhaps the best of India’s non-fiction writers.” And they questioned his legitimacy and denied him entry!
This is beyond ridiculous. It is blatant prejudice and in-your-face racism. Security is a legitimate concern. Insulting and discrediting innocent people under the false facade of security, is not. Being brown and carrying a mirrored bag is just not enough evidence to make someone a terrorist! This is not even a new story. Ask any South Asian, Middle Easterner, person of Arab descent, or even anyone with a Muslim name — you’ll hear stories of how they or their acquaintances have been harassed and put through this racist nonsense numerous times. It has reached a point where we take it for granted. Think about it- racially harassing people has become the norm! How long will we put up with this? How long?
–Manasi Bhate, College sophomore, South Asian Students Association
EPAC needs direction, hire a coordinator
To the Editors:
As student representatives to the Oberlin College Environmental Policy Advisory Committee, we feel it is our responsibility to inform the student body about the state of environmental policy at Oberlin, and about the actions of EPAC, specifically.
EPAC was appointed by the President to draft a plan for campus environmental sustainability. The culmination of its efforts from the fall of 2001 to the spring of 2002 was the draft of a comprehensive environmental policy that outlines ways in which the College could reduce its ecological footprint and improve its stewardship of natural resources through everyday operations, ranging from energy use to materials disposal. This document is available on the President’s webpage (http://www.oberlin.edu/presidnt/environment.html).
The Environmental Policy document drafted by EPAC was adopted by the College Board of Trustees last spring, but since then there has been no commitment to future plans for implementation. EPAC’s role is one of policy advocacy and development, but the committee does not have the capabilities, being comprised of full-time faculty, administrators, and students, to bring about large-scale coordination of policy goals.
EPAC has recommended the creation of a Sustainability Coordinator position to oversee the implementation of environmental policy at Oberlin. This type of position exists at many other institutions of higher education that have adopted similar policies. Outside fund-raising for a Sustainability Coordinator could be raised under the auspices of EPAC, and would not take away college funds from other needs on campus in a time of financial pressures. However, the committee must be given the authority to solicit donations by the President’s Office, and while members of EPAC have contacted the President’s Office on several occasions about this possibility, there has been no response to date.
The timely creation of this position is crucial not only for the implementation of a policy already adopted, but also to maintain Oberlin’s reputation as a leader by example in progressive education. This reputation must be fulfilled if it is to last, and as environmentally-sensitive planning is catching on at campuses around the nation, now is the time to take the lead once again.
–Rob Stenger, College senior
Submit to open art show in student union
To the Editors,
We’re writing on behalf of the Student Union Board to let all Oberlin students know about a new opportunity to show their artwork in Wilder. Not only do students have access to the main lobby, but they can also use the first floor hallways and the stairways leading up to the second floor. If the project is large enough, shows can expand into rooms 109 and 110.
Students will be responsible for hanging their own work and should provide their own materials for doing so. Also, because Wilder is a public building and is often used by young children and other members of the community, students seeking to show their artwork should be conscious of the material they choose to show.
This is a great chance for students, particularly non-art majors who have always wanted a chance to show their work!
If you want more information or wish to show your work contact us at: Jessica.Bradish@oberlin.edu and/or Klara.Elfstrom@oberlin.edu-Jessy BradishCollege senior
–Miriam Elfstrom, College junior, Student Union Board Art Committee
Professor sent home by airport security officials
To the Editors:
It is perhaps illustrative of the times we live in when an academic best known for his expertise on Indian environmentalism and cricket commentary is arbitrarily denied entry into the United States. Dr Ramchandr Guha, an internationally recognized figure in the field of Indian environmentalism, who was on his way to Oberlin to teach a week long mini course on “Environmentalism and Equity in India” was denied entry into the US by immigrations authorities at the Canadian border on Oct. 25. Dr. Guha, a seasoned traveler who planned to go onwards to the University of California at Berkeley, was ostensibly denied entry into the U.S. on grounds that he had the incorrect kind of visa.
As a Pakistani passport holder, and someone for whom the stress of travel because of special “random” checks at us airports, finger prints and photographs and long waits at INS offices now seems to have become a fact of life, I sympathize with the indignity that Dr. Guha was made to endure. Based on Dr. Guha’s personal account, it’s not hard to speculate why he was denied entry into the U.S. Such arbitrary denials of visas have become commonplace for many visitors to the U.S., a country that is still very much operating out of the sense of vulnerability and paranoia created after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. Yet Dr. Ramchadar Guha, a citizen of India with a clearly non-Muslim name doesn’t even fit the profile — if there is one — of your average candidate interested in subverting American national security interests. But then I wonder how many INS officials care to realize these nuances. After all, Gurdwaras (the religious places of Sikhs) were the second most targeted places in the United States after mosques.
For the many Oberlin students like me who looked forward with great anticipation to having an opportunity to work closely with Dr. Guha this is an extremely dismaying development. Although I know from personal experience that many international students have had difficulties in obtaining U.S. students visas, this is the first time that an Indian academic on an official invitation from Oberlin College that has been denied entry into the U.S. In addition to apologizing to Dr. Ramchandar Guha, formal letters of protest are being sent by the South Asian Student’s Association to both the INS and the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. In these times of unprecedented international polarization, for those of us who firmly believe that cross-cultural and educational exchanges are the only way to bridge divides and understand each others’ points of view, this is truly disheartening and yet one is compelled to ask oneself—who is listening and who really cares?
–Rehan Rafay Jamil, College junior