The Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) sent out an email to all international students on Monday, Oct. 12 after becoming aware of reports of bias against international students.
The office sent out an email titled, “Reporting Bias Incidents at UNH.” The email stated that OISS has “recently became aware of Instagram posts (@InternationalatUNH) describing hurtful comments towards international students.” According to the Director of OISS, Laila Page-Manalo, the issue was brought to their attention by a student.
The posts were submitted anonymously to the Instagram page, and then posted to the account by the user. OISS plans to look further into this reporting to make sure that these allegations were made by actual international students of UNH. “As part of our office protocol, we notified the Affirmative Action and Equity Office so they can look into the matter. Although the Instagram account uses ‘UNH,’ it is not in fact a UNH official account, and no evidence was found that the account is moderated by anyone affiliated with UNH,” said Manalo.
OISS and the Affirmative Action and Equity Office have made a joint decision to remind international students on how to address similar problems if they were to have any. “We hope students who experience bias, harassment and discriminatory incidents will contact our office or other resources available to them,” said Manalo.
She added that OISS’s main role is to support international students and that they will continue their effort “to work with offices across campus to address concerns so students can be successful academically and have a positive experience at UNH.”
Nonetheless, all three international students that were interviewed by The New Hampshire have experienced bias either towards them or other international students. Vlad Tkachev, a junior majoring in neuroscience from Russia, said that he has experienced bias toward both himself and others. “When some students find out where I am originally from, they’ll tend to assume that I am aggressive because I’m Russian,” he added.
Tkachev further explained that when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic first started, he experienced a few bias incidents toward international students. However, Tkachev did not report any of the incidents because he personally does not see it as a big deal. “There’s nothing that could be done at that point I think,” he added.
Tkachev believes that these incidents happen due to the lack of diversity at UNH. “Some of the students have never visited or seen people from other countries, they are uncultured and chose to be ignorant instead,” he said.
International student Sophia Moe has a different opinion on why these incidents happen. “I think that it’s more of international students being mean to each other rather than American students being mean to us,” she said, meaning that not all bias incidents are said by American students. Aside from cultural differences, she added, “Because international students believe that all of them have some sort of a similar background, they perceived it to be acceptable to talk about other international students.”
Although bioengineering student Shawn Tran has never personally experienced any sort of bias toward him, he has seen it happened to other international students. “I’ve heard so many bad things from students directed toward Chinese students,” he said. Similar to Tkachev and Moe, Tran did not report any of these incidents because he did not want to cause a scene and felt that it wasn’t necessary, Tran added.
Photo Courtesy of Shawn Latulippe