​Agust​ 3, 2020

Dear DBBS Community,

On July 16th, 2020, DBBS held a listening session for international students to allow space to acknowledge and dialogue about the many and layered ways in which (the rescinded) SEVP directives & xenophobia, racial climate, and COVID-19 have affected their student experience and wellness. The session was facilitated using a Restorative Justice approach to encourage acknowledgment of harm and support healing.

For the purposes of this listening session, we focused on hearing the experiences of our international student community to better understand, advocate, and center student needs. We utilized feedback from this listening session to create this executive summary report to share with faculty, partner offices, and leadership.  We will also use what we learned to inform an action plan that best supports our students.

Goals of the session were to:
o   Acknowledge the harm and stress created by this directive
​o   Give space to express the harm and stress caused by this directive and current event
o   Better understand what international students want to see the University do
o   Better understand the international graduate student experience at this time
o   Publicize the OISS townhall, taking place the following day

Our conversation was guided by the following questions. Please find a summary of the feedback for each question below.

1.       Who was harmed (by xenophobia, this directive, and the universities response)?
 o   International students, folks who are not native to the U.S. (any immigrants), and anyone who doesn’t “look American” (e.g. racial/ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ people,  etc.).

2.       What was the harm?
o   Students expressed feeling: Lack of belonging, loss of safety, sense of isolation and unwantedness, questioning future plans due to uncertainty, hopes and dreams potentially put on hold or changed, awakened to privileges and oppressions they experience, distracted from “primary duties” in lab or as a student, anti-Asian sentiments experienced, inability to visit family or go home (further isolation), fear of speaking out against directives/xenophobia, fear of deportation, among other things.  

3.       How can the university repair the harm?
o   Communications:
     - Institutional messages must come sooner and must be more supportive.​
     - The Institution and Division should provide more guidance and support for international students by sending out messages sooner to domestic community members          to let them know how to utilize their privilege/speak to these issues.
o   Education of Faculty and Staff:
     - Better education for PIs, Program Directors, and DBBS staff about supporting international students and student visa issues in matriculation, various stages of                  training, and departure from the program.
     - Students desire to be supported not only at the DBBS or program-level, but at the lab level as well.
o   Education for Students:
    - Non-International and International Students alike wanted education to raise awareness for students about how to support international colleagues and trainees.               This  would be an effort to socialize the next generation of PIs to be aware of immigration policies to be able to speak to and better support the international student          experience.
o   Grants and Fellowships:
     - It is very challenging to find grants and fellowships for significant awards; much time is spent finding and applying to appropriate awards. It would be helpful for                 there to be a grants/fellowships (and potentially postdoc positions as well) person to assist international student in applying and submitting for these kinds of awards.
     - Similarly, the DBBS “bonus” award policy, in turn, may be perceived as inequitable as international students do not have equal access to grants of that dollar                     amount.
     - Receiving grants at this stage of career development is pivotal and may close doors for opportunities in the (near or distant) future.
     - Similarly, career development resources are needed that meet the needs of international students (e.g., postdoctoral positions that are friendly to                                       international applicants, visa support and considerations, etc.).
o   International Student Support Programming
     - International students need a space to congregate and connect about shared experiences. A Petri Dish-like meeting on a regular basis could be beneficial.

4.       What are other things that you want other folks in the university to know?
o   Citizenship and a path to citizenship is NOT easy.
    - Students wanted to raise awareness that immigration and getting permanent resident status is not an easy process. In fact, it is very difficult. Being a non-citizen at           this time (with this administration) is extremely anxiety producing. No matter how long someone has been in the country, getting a green card is not easy.
o   There is a constant fear of deportation and feeling of isolation, particularly from family that is out of country.
    - There are tensions with supporting all students’ “right to civic engagement” when international students do not have rights of citizens. Again, OISS language for                being deported is very harsh and creates fears for international students (e.g., jaywalking could lead to deportation because International students do not have right          to due process). 
    - Isolation from family in other countries is a large strain on international students. Not only is it very costly, the climate around immigration causes uncertainty                      around re-entry to the United States. Students, similarly, feel a backlash socially in lab with micro/macroaggressions about taking an extended period of time off.

The Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences wishes to thank the participants of the Listening Session for their authentic dialogue. We encourage all students to reach-out to DBBS faculty, staff, and administrators to discuss their insights and recommendations for developing more equitable policies and programs. We ask that you continue to engage with DBBS as we evaluate policies and implement new programming to better meet students’ needs.

All the best,

The DBBS Team

 

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