Rumors abound of Arab-student exodus

Two weeks after the horrific terrorist attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon, their effects continue to ripple over Chico in varied manifestations. Rumors currently abound at Chico State University that many students from the Middle East are dis-enrolling, allegedly called upon by their respective governments to return to their native countries for military service.

One such rumor said some 20 Pakistani students had been contacted by their government and ordered home to join and fight in that strategically located country’s military. The rumors, said Robert Jackson, dean of the School of Graduate, International and Sponsored Programs, are not entirely accurate.

“There have been some, Middle Eastern students primarily, who are returning home, mostly out of their parents’ concerns,” Jackson said. “Understandably, those parents are nervous.”

In fact, this week the Associated Press reports Arab students in colleges across the country are pulling out of school and heading home. At least 63 foreign students have dropped out of the California State University’s 23 campuses. Washington State reports 50 students from the United Arab Emirates have left school.

Jackson said that out of the more than 600 international students enrolled at Chico State, about 20—most of those from the United Arab Emirates—were headed home, some at the request of worried parents. The UAE government, which sponsors and helps pay for their enrollment here through scholarships, has agreed to not penalize the students for heading home, Jackson said.

However, Homer Metcalf, faculty adviser for the university’s Arab students, said that about a dozen students from UAE were here on military scholarships.

“As allies with the U.S. in this situation, the United Arab Emirates government has called up these men, just as we have called up our reservists,” Metcalf said.

Still, many of these students, Jackson said, are expected to return for the spring semester, as they are enrolled for classes then.

As for the rumor of the Pakistani-student exodus, Jackson said that one could be easily dispelled. “Well, my records show that we have only one Pakistani student enrolled here,” he explained.

Currently, 77 students from the Middle East are enrolled at Chico State, Jackson said. According to the American Council on Education, there are about 40,000 students from Arab countries enrolled in U.S. universities.

"There have been rumors of fights and violence [in Chico]," said Jackson. "But there’s been little if any trouble. The students say they’ve been treated just fine."