ESL sees drop after 9/11 attacks

Olivia Medovich
Staff writer

What came down with the Twin Towers on Sept. 11 reverberated across the nation.

On campus, programs inside the International Student Organization were affected.

After Sept. 11, 2001, it was not unusual for people at the University to think the international student population decreased because of the terrorist attacks, Mark Galloway, associate director for international relations, said.

“9/11 was a minimal impact to our international student population,” Galloway said.

Galloway said the University did see a fall in the number of international students after 9/11, but it was simply a coincidence.

For example, in Fall 2001 ISO had approximately 140 students from Thailand that made up the majority of the population. By 2003, numbers dropped to around 40 students due to the crash of Thailand’s economy in 2001, Galloway said.

“You would think the University would look for ways to replace these students, but at the time we didn’t have an international recruiter,” Galloway said. “The only recruitment we had was basically word of mouth.”

International students did not withdraw from because they felt threatened by the terrorist attacks, he said.

“We had only one student who left the University because of Sept. 11,” Galloway said.

However, Guangming Zou, director of the English as a second language program (ESL), said the ESL program’s enrollment did decrease because of 9/11.

After 9/11, many international students did not fully understand what was going on in the United States. They were afraid to come here and study, he said.

“They were scared that at any time a plane could be taken down by a terrorist,” Zou said. “They simply canceled their trip at the last minute.”

According to ESL enrollment data, after 9/11 the ESL population dropped from 394 students in 2001 to 224 students in 2004.

The University had to lay off four ESL instructors after 9/11 because there was not enough revenue brought in by international students to keep them employed, Zou said.

“If you don’t have students then you can not afford to open your doors,” he said.

After 9/11 the American Embassy scrutinized international students and added more restrictions for them to obtain visas, Zou said.

“There was a market decrease in the international population in large part due to the difficulty in getting student visas generally and getting them processed in a timely fashion specifically,” President Randy Dunn said.

Without visas it was impossible for students to come to the University and study, Zou said.

“In order for a foreign student to study here they have to apply for a visa,” he said. “The more scrutiny from the embassy the less visas were approved.”

With the help of the University the ESL enrollment has increased, Zou said.

“Most institutions across the country that are investing heavily in international education have gotten through that and certainly it’s the case we have, too, in that 10 years time,” Dunn said. “But probably what has helped us as much as anything is the fact that about three years ago now we worked our international scholarship program and became much more aggressive in recruiting strategies through the IIS here on campus and we’ve really seen the payoff of that both in the numbers of students and just the different countries they’re coming from.”

Zou said keeping in contact with international universities will continue to increase ESL enrollment.

“I have traveled several times overseas with Dr. Dunn to strengthen Murray States relationship with other universities and recruit more students,” he said.

According to ESL enrollment data, the number of students has increased to an all time high over the last few years.

“At least last year we were the largest one of those programs in all universities in Kentucky,” Dunn said. “And the availability of the program has been very important in helping keep that degree pipeline filled of internationals.”

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Inside the story:

For some, the effects of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks stung in a far different way.

Aiman Alrawahi, freshmen from Oman, Muscat, said people should not be stereotyped because of their appearance or nationality.

“We are human everywhere no matter what your color is, your religion is,” he said. “You are still human.”

After 9/11, Muslim students were told people would be upset immediately afterward, Mark Galloway, associate director for international relations, said.

“The terrorists weren’t Muslims, they were extremists,” Alrawahi said. “I believe terrorism has no religion. There is a difference between being a religious person and being an extremist.”

Alrawahi said he thought it was wrong for the terrorist to attack the U.S.

“I was upset that day,” he said. “I did not understand why they did this.”

Alrawahi researched the terrorist attacks before coming to study at the University. He read a theory that said 9/11 could possibly have been a conspiracy developed by the U.S. government, he said.

Alrawahi said when coming to Murray State a month ago he did not feel people would blame him for 9/11 because he was Muslim.

“The government does not reflect the people,” he said. “People here have been very kind to me.”

Alrawahi said before coming to Murray State he was warned people might make derogatory comments toward him because he was Muslim.

“I have not run into any problems,” he said.

Directly after 9/11 was an awkward time for Muslim students, Galloway said.

“The first few days they felt like everyone was watching them,” he said. “They understood why though.”

Even though there were some isolated incidents where negative comments were made toward Muslim students after 9/11, the community does not blame them, Galloway said.

“If someone made slanderous comments toward a Muslim student, there was someone else who would say we don’t do that in Murray,” he said. “It wasn’t their fault.”

Today we have a lot more Muslim students at the University who are very active in campus activities, Galloway said.

Said Galloway: “The group really takes the opportunity to teach people about what their culture is really like.”