Forum to face misconceptions about immigrants

Angelica Cataldo, Entertainment Reporter

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In light of the presidential election, the Center for the Humanities, in conjunction with the Making Excellence Inclusive organization, will host an open forum to discuss immigrants living in America at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Doudna Fine Arts Center Lecture Hall.

The forum will focus on the experiences of immigrant students and faculty at Eastern. The panel will feature three international students: Valida Azamatova, Owura Kuffuor and Tajdar Ahmed. It will also feature C.C. Wharram, English professor and director of the Center for the Humanities; Teresa Maria Linda Scholz, communications professor and vice chair of MEI; and Catherine Polydore, psychology professor and chair of MEI.

“I think it’s a good time before the elections,” Wharram said. “I’ve heard a lot of things myself on the news and from other people that simply misunderstand the entire situation, there’s fearmongering and falsehood.”

Wharram and Polydore have been international students themselves, and Scholz was a first-generation American citizen in her family.

Polydore has been with MEI for more than two years and is from Dominica. Wharram is originally from Canada, and Scholz’s family is from Guatemala.

“We know the number doesn’t represent the entirety of the international population on campus,” Wharram said. “It’s still a good way to clear up the misconceptions people have.”

MEI has been an organization on Eastern’s campus for four years advocating for whom Polydore described as “traditionally marginalized students.”

She went on to say that MEI aims to have institutions such as Eastern respecting a student or faculty member’s gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

“(MEI’s) mission is to keep this institution thinking at all levels of diversity and inclusions,” Polydore said. “Even as we try to pursue academic excellence, that means excellence in all the spaces on campus, not just in the classroom.”

Wharram also noted the population of international students has been on the rise for the past few years. Last fall about 291 international students were enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs at Eastern, and this year that number has risen to 433 students.

As of Fall 2016, international students make up about 5 percent of the student population, meaning that for every 20 students there is one international student. These students represent about 40 different countries.

“Even in some of my classes I have three international students, and I have about 22 in my classes,” Wharram said. “I usually have only one maybe two, but this year we have such a large influx of foreign students coming in.”

Ryan Hendrickson, interim dean of the Graduate School and professor of political science, will be the moderator for the panel and will have questions prepared for the participants, but he will open the floor for anyone attending to ask questions.

“We really want people to lead the discussion and ask questions, rather than us just ‘speaking,’” Wharram said.

Wharram, Scholz and Polydore emphasized the importance of misconceptions and fallacies being addressed and corrected.

“We want to kind of combat stereotypes and political commentary,” Scholz said. “I hear ‘illegal immigrant’ being tossed around, but it’s more complex than that and we want to talk about why.”

All six participants will be open to answer questions from the audience that pertains to the overall topic as well as their personal experiences.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize how difficult it is for international students and faculty to get here,” Wharram said.

The forum is free and open to the public, and Wharram, Scholz and Polydore encouraged everyone to come with questions, an open mind and readiness to learn.

 

Angelica Cataldo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]