Cultural harassment ends with you

Pratibha Gautam

Staff Writer

It is appalling how semester after semester, at least one case of an international student being bullied gets published in the newspaper, yet no sufficient action has been taken to counter the problem.

In March 2017, an international student found a note on their car with a hateful message about their nationality.

Last week, a similar situation was reported. An international student found the word “gay” spray-painted on his car.

Between these two incidents, several international students have reported cases of harassment. In October 2017, two students from South Korea reported being harassed on campus. They had ketchup packets and a can of pet food thrown at them along with racial and sexual slurs.

While they did take their complaints to the Center for International Programs and Hebert Reeves, the dean of student services, they did not see any tangible actions taken to resolve and prevent these activities.

This past Halloween, a prominent member of the Troy chapter of the FarmHouse fraternity was involved in the misrepresentation and mockery of Mexican people on Snapchat.

In February 2018, more harassment cases were reported. Multiple students reported having seen people in cars with Troy University decals throwing drinks or shouting obscenities at international students.

All of these harassment cases are only the reported problems; there must be numerous other incidents that were never reported because of fear, a sense of humiliation or both in the victims.

None of the perpetrating students have been identified.

It is ironic the “International University of Alabama” is culturally insensitive and cannot look at a European man without feeling uncomfortable or feeling the need to express this discomfort by saying “gay.”

What is even more ironic is the need to resort to violence and humiliation when faced with differences, which is counterintuitive to the idea of a wholesome college experience.

The purpose of a college education is to broaden one’s mindset and to prepare one for the world. How can we expect students to experience the world at its fullest when they feel insecure by the little differences in Troy University’s world?

Of course, we can never expect all our peers to arrive fully equipped with the skill to interact with people from other countries and cultures. It is likely that most of the transgressors were unaware of how to interact with international students because they were not aware of their cultural and national identities.

It is, after all, easy to stick to culturally ingrained prejudices. However, it is not an excuse for bullying and violence.

The solution to the problem is clear: teach students to be culturally sensitive. The implementation, however, is not so easy.

To start, the university needs to prepare its American students for the variety of people they will encounter during their college life, which cannot be done without the presence of international students at orientation programs.

The university and the international students have tried to foster a positive relationship between national and international students through programs such as Conversation Partners, ISCO and celebrations organized by individual international student groups, but the participation of American students in these events is fairly low.

Usually, those who visit have cultural sensitivity and conduct themselves well. It is important to get more students involved in international events to ensure all students are exposed to other cultures.

The international student population at Troy University is large enough that almost all American students will have at least one international student in one of their classes. Classrooms and lectures can be an effective ground to foster communication between international and American students.

The most effort, however, has to be at the individual student’s level. All students need to be ready to let go of their cultural biases, to stand up or to report any acts of bullying and to respect one another as fellow human beings.

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