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Graduate Student Council hears update on Chinese scholars barred from university

Graduate Student Council hears update on Chinese scholars barred from university

Graduate Student Council hears update on Chinese scholars barred from university
September 03
10:00 2020

The Graduate Student Council discussed at Tuesday’s senate meeting the university’s decision to remove scholarships and J-1 visas for Chinese international scholars, which senate members said caused “panic” for some students.

GSC President Tiffany Miller requested transparency from Provost Jennifer Cowley regarding her announcement that the university would pull funding and visa privileges from 15 visiting Chinese researchers affiliated with an international scholarship program. Cowley’s announcement, made in conjunction with Mark McLellan, the vice president for research and innovation, did not specify any reasons for the decision.

“We didn’t have any information on why the program was being ended in the letter from Provost Cowley and Dr. McLellan,” Miller said. “But the letter is circulating and it’s freaking everybody out. There’s that thought of ‘These are people doing research here internationally, and if we can just end their visas, what does that say about my status as an international student?’”

Both Miller and SGA President Michael Luecke sent emails to Cowley requesting more information about the situation, and Miller has requested a meeting with Cowley and McLellan to discuss the matter. Miller also requested Cowley meet with the affected researchers about their removal.

Miller said the organization funding the researchers, the Chinese Scholarship Council, is facing scrutiny from other schools and the FBI for theft and destruction of intellectual property. UNT is the first American university to cut ties with CSC-funded researchers, though the organization has faced scrutiny elsewhere after a researcher at the University of California Davis was accused of hiding their role with the Chinese military, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

All 15 people affected by the decision were using J-1 visa waivers to remain in the United States, but the university’s denial of those waivers may force some to return home.

GSC College of Music Senator Julia Coelhno, an international student, said the university’s decision represents a “third panic” for Chinese students during a period of heightened tension for Chinese people in America and international students.

“My colleagues who are international students from China were naturally very, very worried exactly because there was no explanation,” Coelhno said. “I think Chinese international students have had it worse during this stage because this is a time of hearing the ‘Chinese Flu’ rhetoric. Then we have a summer in which [international students] are threatened to be deported, and then this happens with no explanation.”

UNT alumna Liang Yuheng created a petition with over 5,000 signatures as of Sept. 1 asking the university to lift the ban or assist the researchers with leaving. In the petition, Yuheng said the researchers were a part of the hydrology program and “no threat for UNT and the U.S..”

Although none of the affected people were seeking a degree with UNT, Miller said she has been in contact with the scholars to help with finding resources and refunds.

“Remember that we are all part of the same community,” Miller said. “There is a very big need right now with everything going on nationally and internationally. There’s a big need for actionable empathy, compassion and a sense of community.”

Featured Image: Senators sit in at the GSC in-person meeting in the Union on Mar. 2, 2020. Meetings are now being held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Image by Oscar Lopez

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Carter Mize

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