Letter to the Editor

By JOANNA BEHRMAN | November 21, 2019

In response to “What obstacles do Hopkins international students face?” published on November 7:

Dear Editors,

The recent article in The News-Letter (“What obstacles do Hopkins international students face?”) highlighted the difficulties faced by international undergraduate students. We wish to bring additional attention to the burdens faced by international graduate students. 

International graduate students, like undergraduates, can also face homesickness and culture shock. However, while Hopkins outwardly celebrates the diversity of its undergraduate population, graduate students are encouraged to conform to particular norms. Because graduate students are also workers who teach classes or run laboratory experiments, we are expected to be at work on campus during the week and often on the weekends as well. But there are no clear protections for graduate students to take time off to celebrate religious or national holidays which are different from those on U.S. and Hopkins calendars — calendars which were historically built around Western and Christian holidays. In addition, a session at TA orientation held this fall, which was listed as helping international graduate students acclimate to the U.S. university campus, instead directed attendees on how to improve their accents. 

Additional financial requirements burden international graduate students, from being subject to different levels of taxation (and thus lower take-home-pay) depending on their country to being disallowed from taking on a second job when department or grant funding runs out. Graduate students receive little help from the OIE in navigating different tax and visa regulations, and the burdens are only magnified for graduate students affected by the Muslim Ban. 

Finally, international graduate students are in a fundamentally precarious position and frequently faced with the threat of deportation as a direct result of university policy. It is not uncommon for supervisors to threaten a grad’s visa status in order to pressure them to work additional hours in the lab. And as happened only last year with former Hopkins librarian Tamsyn Mahoney-Steel, university administration let deadlines on important documentation lapse, despite continued exemplary workplace performance, to avoid taking even a minor stand against the Trump administration immigration policies. Finally, without official notification to the larger university community, Hopkins updated the student code of conduct to explicitly include changes to immigration status as a potential consequence for violating this notoriously vague regulation. Will Hopkins retaliate against international students for nonviolent campus protest?

Hopkins should take immediate steps to increase support and stability for international graduate and undergraduate students.

Signed,

Joanna Behrman,

History of Science and Technology graduate student, and her fellow members of Teachers and Researchers United, the Hopkins graduate student union

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