By TOPHER PAYTON
A task force made up of several university administrators and a few Middle Eastern transfer students met before the Thanksgiving holiday to discuss the safety of the students on Eastern’s campus.
They decided to form this group after a few members of the Richmond community decided to take it upon themselves to threaten these transfer students, believing them to be somehow related to the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 that left 130 dead by the extremist group ISIS.
Reports were received by the Richmond Police that stated cars owned by the Middle Eastern students had been vandalized and threatening messages were left for them, causing them to feel unsafe and debate if they should even leave their apartments alone, the students at the meeting said.
The task force addressed how the university could best handle the safety of the students, as there wasn’t a quick response being that it was outside the university.
The safety of the students is the most important thing, Vice President of Student Success and University Counsel Laurie Carter said at the meeting. However, some of the students felt like Eastern could have done more.
They said they would like people watching them to make sure no harm would befall them. One of them also said they didn’t receive an email from Eastern explaining the situation that was happening in the greater Madison County area.
Another student said it’s important for everyone on the campus to feel safe and to send a message out to the student body so everyone knows what’s going on and could look out for anything suspicious.
Brett Morris, the director of admissions, said maybe there was something they could do with the city, mentioning a town and gown type meeting to educate the people of Richmond on how this behavior is not tolerable.
Other members of the task force brought up the idea of solidarity showing support for these international students, and showing they have safe places they can go to if they ever feel unsafe.
Another big point brought up at the meeting was xenophobia, or the fear of people from other countries. America has seen a lot of this recently as several people have started blaming all Muslims living in America for the attacks in Paris.
Unfortunately, staff members at the meeting brought up that many of the counselors at Eastern haven’t been trained to deal with xenophobia, as they’ve never had to deal with it before.
The students liked the idea of training the counselors better handle xenophobia cases so they have other resources to go to in the future.
Carter also said Housing has opened up some rooms for any international student to live in temporarily if they feel unsafe in their apartment.
She closed by saying Eastern is going to do a lot more in the future to educate students and faculty about xenophobia and to better notice instances where a Middle Eastern student is endangered. They are also going to try and be more communicative in the future with letting students know if there is a risk facing them leaving their residence.
She also commended the members of the task force for meeting and responding quickly to the situation.