By Mike Linn
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University officials are actively recruiting students from universities in foreign countries, especially China, something that has become increasingly difficult since Sept. 11, 2001.
Eastern President Steven Gamble recently signed a World American Cultural Exchange agreement with officials from Sichuan Conservatory of Music in China. The agreement will allow ENMU students to attend school in China and Chinese students to attend Eastern.
Eastern has about 50 International students from countries that include Mexico, Cameroon, Canada and China.
The agreement with Sichuan Conservatory sends a message that although entry into America has become more restrictive for foreigners, Eastern officials still believe in the importance of a diverse campus, according to Patrice Caldwell, Ph.D., executive director of planning and analysis for Eastern and a strong supporter of the school’s exchange program.
“It enriches a college campus to have many different cultures,” Caldwell said. “China (for example) is advanced technologically, and there is a high level of cultural attainment there.”
But a hodgepodge of restrictions and red tape have made it difficult for exchange programs to work with ease.
Teachers in America must track foreign students’ classroom attendance, while their American-bred classmates are not tracked at all or leniently so.
The American government implemented the new program, called SEVIS (an acronym for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), in an effort to prevent terrorism. The program allows data for each International and exchange student to be logged into a national tracking database.
“It’s extremely intrusive,” Caldwell said. “It requires faculty to take attendance daily.
“The heightened concern of terrorism has affected every country.”
Fred Chilson, ENMU International Student Advisor, said when government officials signed off on the SEVIS program Eastern — and all universities nationwide — had to reapply to accept exchange and International students.
Currently Eastern has only International students, as their application to receive exchange students is still being processed, Chilson said. He hopes government officials accept Eastern’s application by January.
But it’s not just American restrictions slowing exchange programs.
In China, for example, Caldwell said visas have become increasingly difficult to attain. For many years residents of China have fled to America on visas and never returned, choosing to make their trips from China one-way, Caldwell said.
“China is increasingly rigorous when awarding visas,” Caldwell said.
For varying reasons since 9/11 and even before, leaders of nations have put up barriers making travel difficult between foreign countries. In essence they’re becoming more exclusive, when inclusion would seem to make International relations better, Caldwell said.