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Foreign influences have radicalized American campuses

The case against importing massive numbers of foreign students could not be clearer

Radical, anti-Israel, pro-Hamas protests have engulfed campuses over the fall and winter. Many students involved appeared to wear Arab accessories and speak with accents.

The protests have been hardlined, and even often violent, invading common spaces like libraries and dining halls, hallways, academic buildings, and other spaces not usually subject to such demonstrations.

Tablet ran a fascinating essay this week theorizing why all of this increased radicalization is happening:

“These student protests are no longer composed solely of left-wing American students steeped in critical theory and post-colonial ideology. The protests are now havens for foreign students, especially those from Arab and Muslim countries, with their own set of nationalist and tribal grievances against Israel and the United States. In some cases, such foreign students appear to lead the protests in their pro-terrorism chants–some of which are in Arabic, or translations of Arabic slogans.”

The author, Neetu Arnold, puts this phenomenon in a larger context. The American university, she argues, has been internationalized. There are currently one million foreign students on our college campuses – up from 500,000 in 2000. That is a solid five percent of the total student population nationally.

Her article points out that the percentages are not evenly distributed. In the Ivy League, for instance, the average percentage of foreign students is about 25 percent. Columbia University, where the protests were among the most vicious, has a foreign enrollment of 38 percent, or 14,088 students. Harvard is at 22 percent, or 5,492. These are significant numbers.

The article prompts the question: Why so many foreign students?

The reasons for the explosion are twofold, Arnold argues. First, there is money. Foreign students mostly pay 100 percent tuition with no discounts or scholarships, which is not the case for many middle class students at private universities, who rely on aid, loans and grants.

At public universities, foreign students also pay out-of-state tuition, not the much cheaper in-state tuition. In some cases these fees are paid by wealthy parents. In other cases, governments pay for their young nationals to attend American universities. Either way, it’s a windfall for overpriced universities.

The second putative benefit to universities is diversity, Arnold notes. Many foreign students count as being “of color.” They get their diversity numbers up.

“It also provides universities with a moral justification for their equivocating response to egregious – and perhaps even illegal – acts by international students in recent months,” Arnold wrote.

Like all of those over-the-top protests.

According to Arnold’s research, upwards of 30,000 of these foreign students are paid for by foundations and government offices. That includes governments with whom we have difficult relations. None of the funding is very transparent, either.

The countries that send the most students are China – with whom we have clear adversarial relations, and a group of Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Turkey. Texas A&M, for instance, got $293 million from Saudi Arabia from 2010 to 2022.

The piece goes on to point out that Middle Eastern countries have also provided millions of dollars to set up Islamic or Middle Eastern studies programs at many schools, including Harvard and Yale. Brown and Columbia have Palestinian Studies Centers. These programs employ hardline Middle Eastern scholars, and are “hotbeds of left-wing and anti-Israel activism.”

Furthermore, the Saudi bequests come with strings attached. They insist on spying on their students, who are forbidden to criticize their government. This is also the case with China and its students, who are not allowed to be remotely critical of anything the Chinese government might do. Furthermore, some Chinese students are spies, sent here to steal technology.

So much for academic freedom and First Amendment rights on American campuses.

Finally, Arnold notes, because of the DEI benefits to bringing in certain students – particularly middle class African students – there are rising questions about how their tuition will be paid. Some universities have taken to offering scholarships and discounts. When that happens with public universities, as it does, U.S. taxpayers end up on the hook for foreign students.

That doesn’t seem fair, since Americans don’t benefit from their studies, nor do American students get those scholarships.

The case against importing massive numbers of foreign students could not be clearer.

MORE: Professor accused of antisemitism leaves GWU for Qatar

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