Get a rundown of the top stories in international ed and Karin Fischer’s expert analysis. Delivered on Wednesdays. To read this newsletter as soon as it sends, sign up to receive it in your email inbox.
From: Karin Fischer
Subject: Latitudes: Will America’s Gun Problem Drive Away International Students?
U.S. gun violence raises safety concerns for foreign students
Two students from China were among five students critically injured in a mass shooting at Michigan State University, reviving concerns that American gun violence could deter international students from
We’re sorry. Something went wrong.
We are unable to fully display the content of this page.
If you continue to experience issues, contact us at 202-466-1032 or firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. gun violence raises safety concerns for foreign students
Two students from China were among five students critically injured in a mass shooting at Michigan State University, reviving concerns that American gun violence could deter international students from wanting to come to the United States.
Three other students were killed in the February 13 shooting.
The Chinese consulate in Chicago confirmed that two of the injured students were from China. Bridge Michigan later reported that one of them, John Hao, a junior, was paralyzed from the chest down when his spinal cord was severed by a bullet. A Michigan State student who is a friend of Hao’s told the local nonprofit news publication that Hao’s parents had flown from China to Michigan to be with their son.
In a statement, the consulate warned Chinese students and other Chinese citizens in the United States to “pay close attention to the local security situation, further raise risk awareness, strengthen safety precautions and self protection, and ensure their own safety,” according to an English-language translation of the statement.
This isn’t the first time that a shooting has prompted Chinese officials to issue such safety warnings. In recent days, Chinese social media has lit up with discussions of the Michigan State incident and whether Chinese parents should feel safe sending their sons and daughters to study in the United States.
These concerns are not limited to students and families from China. A survey by World Education Services, a nonprofit international-education research company, found that two in five international students were worried about gun violence in the United States. A quarter of the students surveyed said they were worried about the possibility of gun violence on their campus.
I wrote about those findings in a November 2019 article exploring whether American gun violence would dissuade international students from coming to the United States for higher education. One student recounted her own run-in with gun crime, when bullets were fired into the San Francisco office where she was interning. Her family at home in Egypt prayed that she would be safe from a shooting, she said. An admissions director told me that the issue of gun violence was routinely brought up on recruiting trips around the globe. “It’s often the first question asked in parents’ sessions.”
After the incident at Michigan State I posted my three-year-old piece in my social-media feeds. Sadly, it’s far from the first time that a school shooting has prompted me to reshare the article since it was originally published.
Commenters were near-unanimous in their concern that gun violence is damaging America’s reputation with prospective students and their families. A Czech professor of internationalization who is a father wrote in response to my LinkedIn post that his daughter had been “pretty set” on studying in the United States but ultimately decided against it because it was “too dangerous.” (She also was worried about costs, he said.) Another poster shared his own fears as a student coming from the Philippines to the United States.
The comments had a common pessimism. A counselor at a high school characterized the response of American higher education as “shell shocked” and “resigned.” Families have long “rationalized” the decision to send their children to study here because of American colleges’ academic quality, a former college administrator wrote. Would there be a tipping point when the “ugliness and awful consequences of our gun culture” would outweigh prestige, and the United States would lose its position as the destination of choice for students from overseas? he asked.
But a Chinese graduate student at Michigan State told me he thought his classmates would continue to come to the United States. Students are factoring safety into their calculation to study in America and accepting risk, Zhenyang Xu, a second-year doctoral student in the university’s higher-education program, said in an interview. “Gun violence is not a new problem in the U.S.”
Since the shooting, Xu said, he has received many text and email messages from friends, classmates, and professors, checking in to see how he’s doing. “I didn’t realize how much I loved the community until this happened,” he said of Michigan State. “It’s made our community stronger.”
A snapshot from AIEA
I’m writing this newsletter from a quiet(ish) corner of the conference hotel at the annual meeting of the Association of International Education Administrators. I’ll have highlights and takeaways in next week’s newsletter after the conference wraps up, but I wanted to share a snippet from a talk by two prominent scholars of Africa, ‘Funmi Olonisakin, vice president for international, engagement, and service at King’s College London, and Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, associate provost of Case Western Reserve University.
The pair discussed African higher education and the issue of equity in global student mobility and international academic partnerships. Overseas collaborations have to meet the needs of African universities and their partners in the United States and Europe, Olonisakin said. Too often, they “suit international agendas of partners in the North.”
Likewise, American colleges may overlook sub-Saharan Africa when recruiting international students because the region has a smaller middle class than traditional sources of foreign students like China. Olonisakin urged colleges not to let “financial imperatives trump” the educational and social benefits of attracting a more-diverse set of international students.
For sub-Saharan higher education, capacity building is key, Zeleza said. Although the region has established many new universities in recent years, it can barely make a dent in demand, and only about 10 percent of the college-age population is enrolled in postsecondary education. If Africa is to make progress, it must produce many more professors, he said.
I examined the promise and potential pitfalls of international recruitment in Africa in The Chronicle last month.
A return to Cold War scholarship?
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago brought an abrupt end to international academic collaboration with Russian universities and halted on-the-ground fieldwork in the country. While the rupture with Russia was abrupt, it’s not the only place where conflict or politics has made in-person research difficult, if not impossible.
In China, President Xi Jinping’s tightening grip on power has extended to academe. Archives have been closed. Wariness of the West has made it more difficult for researchers to interview officials or average citizens, and Sino-American tensions have chilled scholarly exchange.
In a new article, I look at whether we could be returning to a time when both countries were largely closed off and academics were forced to do their work from afar. One researcher told me, “We’re back to being Cold War scholars.” You can read my piece here.
Around the globe
The University of Utah has agreed to pay $5 million to the family of a student from China who was killed by a former boyfriend after university employees failed to intervene when she reported threats against her.
Ahmad Ezzeddine of Wayne State University, in Detroit, and Thomas Buntru of the University of Monterrey, in Mexico, have been named senior international officers of the year by the Institute of International Education.
A nonprofit organization that promotes higher education in Latin America and the Caribbean will shut down after Harvard University revoked its affiliate status.
Canada had more than 807,000 international students in 2022, according to visa data, a 30-percent increase over the previous year.
Canada’s three major national research agencies will no longer fund sensitive research by scientists working with foreign collaborators who are seen as a security risk to the country.
A union representing faculty and staff members at Turkish universities criticized a government plan to shift to remote learning so that campus residence halls can be used to house earthquake survivors.
A French-Iranian academic accused by Iran of conspiring against national security has been released after spending more than three years in prison.
The decision by Peking University to award an honorary professorship to President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran during a state visit was heavily criticized on Chinese social media because of the country’s record on human and women’s rights.
The South Korean government has released a plan to turn regional universities that have been hit by enrollment declines into innovation hubs tied to in-demand industries.
The Australian government is supporting measures to reduce foreign interference at universities there, including a working group to deal with on-campus intimidation and reporting on international students and faculty members to foreign embassies.
And finally …
The two Chinese students tragically caught in the crossfire were among 4,265 international students, including more than 2,300 from China, at Michigan State, according to the university’s office for international students and scholars. That’s a sizable international population, although it has contracted in recent years. At the high-water mark, more than 15 percent of Michigan State students were from overseas, with Chinese students far and away the largest share.
That phenomenon led me to visit East Lansing more than a half-dozen times in the 2012-13 academic year to tell the story of three Chinese freshmen at Michigan State, and, through them, the story of the Chinese student boom at American colleges. Except for my own alma mater and the campuses I grew up on (I’m a professor’s kid), I’ve never spent as much time at one college as I have reporting at Michigan State. Watching the news coverage, the campus images were at once familiar and transformed.
One of the students I wrote about was a passionate basketball fan, so some of my time at Michigan State was spent in the bleachers at the Breslin Center. On Saturday night, my husband, a Michigan State grad, turned on the game against the archrival University of Michigan, and we cheered for the Spartans. For everyone I’ve come to know through the years covering Michigan State, I’m rooting for you still.
Thanks for reading. I always welcome your feedback and ideas for future reporting, so drop me a line at email@example.com. You can also connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you like this newsletter, please share it with colleagues and friends. They can sign up here.