“We Are More Than Your Paycheck: The Dehumanization of International Students in the United States”

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

Here’s some (more) recommended reading for anyone interested in the current situation of international students in the US. The authors are Santiago Castiello-Gutiérrez and Xiaojie Li, both Ph.D. students at the University of Arizona’s Center for the Study of Higher Education. This excerpt may whet your appetite to read the article in its entirety.

At the same time, one of the toughest realizations is that it is not just the federal government that is dehumanizing us as international students. Unfortunately, those who are fighting with and for us also use language that unconsciously embraces the nationalist narrative. Such language is often taken for granted, but for us, it can be hurtful. Many times, the arguments that universities and other international student allies used to defend our place and belonging are framed based on the economic contributions and valuable talent that we bring to this country. Although without harmful intentions, these arguments perpetuate the narrative that we are commodities and omit the fact every single student is a story, every single one of us has a life in this country, and that our lives are inherently connected with the life of others. Yet, we are still in the middle of power struggles watching how the government cares about politics and optics while the universities care mostly about the financial implications.

I agree that the value of international students in the US has too often been couched in nationalist terms. Just have a look at various NAFSA and IIE statements, past and present. Yes, the economic justification is important but it shouldn’t be the only argument in favor of hosting international students – now more than ever.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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