Chinese students petition against US university's termination of scholar program

By Zhang Han and Cui Fandi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/1 17:18:40

Photo: Facebook account of the University of North Texas

Chinese students and scholars at the University of North Texas have launched an online petition after the school announced a "sudden and arbitrary" termination of the status of at least 15 visiting scholars without giving specific reasons, and urged the university to revoke the decision. 

The southern American school sent emails to the scholars on August 26, notifying them that their access to school resources, including emails, servers and other materials, had been terminated. They were also not allowed to visit the campus unaccompanied.

The decision means the scholars were only given a one-month grace period to handle the disruption to their research, end their house leases, pack their luggage and buy tickets - an  expensive and difficult process - to leave the US. 

Students and scholars signed a petition on the website to call for support and urged the school to revoke its decision. 

"The school did not explain the reason and UNT seems to be the only American university to have made such an announcement so far," Liang Yuheng, a UNT graduate and initiator of the petition, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

UNT does not have a large community of Chinese students and scholars. "Our voice is small, but we appreciate that many American schoolmates and professors are forwarding the message and supporting us," Liang said. 

Adam Briggle, an associate professor of philosophy at UNT who has hosted seven Chinese scholars over the past nine years, said he "did not think it is fair to abruptly terminate the visas for these scholars," which he called an unnecessarily blunt and abrupt policy.

"It is my understanding that there are no credible or specific allegations against any of the Chinese visiting scholars at NUT, let alone all of them," he wrote on the petition website, noting that the consequences of the action for the scholars were severe amid the pandemic. 

Infographic: GT

The scholars affected are sponsored by China Scholarship Council (CSC), a non-profit institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education that provides financial assistance to Chinese who wish to study abroad and foreigners who want to study in China.

A university spokesperson told media, "UNT continues to welcome visiting scholars from around the world, including China," city news outlet Denton Record-Chronicle reported Monday local time.

But one of the affected scholars told the Global Times that they did not feel they were given any respect or basic human rights in the process. 

"It is easy to say those laudable-sounding words to media, but who knows who will be the next (to be deported)," a UNT student who requested anonymity told the Global Times.

"It is a betrayal of a school culture that embraces diversity and inclusiveness," said another student, noting that American professors and colleagues of the Chinese scholars will also pay the price of such a sudden disruption to research. 

The Global Times learned that CSC and the Chinese embassy in the US are trying to arrange places on chartered flights for these students.

The school's hostility comes at a time of escalating China-US tensions. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on Monday that President Donald Trump was weighing restrictions on Chinese students seeking to study in the US.

Posted in: SOCIETY

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