On March 7, 2017, the Hofstra Chronicle published a well-written and provocative editorial with the title “International Students left to fend for themselves at Hofstra University.” The essay drew the very bleak conclusion that “Hofstra falls flat when it comes to the needs of their international students” and added that “There are close to no opportunities for students to properly assimilate into American culture, little financial aid for those without citizenship and making friends beyond [one’s] international clique is incredibly difficult.” We take such a claim very seriously and would like to understand better any perceptions that the university falls short in its welcome and support of international students, whose presence has grown steadily over the years and benefits the community in so many ways. The new Welcome video (http://www.hofstra.edu/admission/adm_international_main.html) captures Hofstra’s openness to international students and global learning.
The author, Norman Gabriel, mentions the Global Mentor Program, which has been very popular and successful (since its inception in 2014), despite the experience he cites of a no-show mentor on his first day of orientation, which must have been several years ago. Such an experience is not at all representative: we know the Global Mentors personally and they are a wonderfully dedicated, personable and engaging group of students who represent many states and countries and an extraordinary number of campus activities and interests. We are very pleased with their work. Hofstra of course has many such engaging students and we can look to expand that group and explore other ways to broaden our engagement with the international student community on campus, through both Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. We will also review the orientation program in general, whose deficiencies he describes with rather inflammatory rhetoric, which we don’t think does justice to the range of support services or personal attention we offer at Hofstra. We would like to call upon Mr. Gabriel and others to help us address the disconnect between that perception (and rhetoric) and our explicit desire and intention to welcome and help students succeed at Hofstra – all students, from all around the country and the world. We will host an International Student Forum on April 24 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. (with snacks – in the Greenhouse, Student Center, lower level) in order to hear directly from our international student community about what they like and what we can do better.
The critique in fact focuses on the English Language Program (ELP), and does not at all mention the office of International Student Affairs (ISA) or the Office of Intercultural Engagement and Inclusion with its many multicultural programs, both of which offices focus, with their own programming, specifically on international and intercultural engagement. In contrast, the English Language Program focuses on English language instruction (English as a second language), with a strong cultural component, of course, so that international students without English proficiency can succeed in their academic discipline and beyond; in the essay that program is described as “overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded,” which is simply not the case. The program is not underfunded and currently employs 24 tutors, who average 1.5 hours per week, with tutees limited to 2 hours per week. They constantly hire new tutors as needed. But the English Language Program does not otherwise offer excursions and other cultural activities, since those are organized by the International Student Affairs office. Mr. Gabriel may have confused the function of the ELP and its tutors with the ISA and the robust Global Mentor program. The ELP reports to the Dean of Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Of course, we share the concern that international students should have more opportunities to enter fully into the Hofstra community and American culture and we will increase our efforts to make sure international students are aware of and take advantage of our extracurricular services and programs.
Just to conclude, Hofstra is in the final phase of a 17-month self-study of its international dimensions, from all angles, sponsored and directed by the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., and conducted by a large taskforce with multiple subcommittees and workgroups. We also just conducted, at considerable expense of time, energy and funds, a Campus Climate survey to get a fuller, more detailed picture of how different segments of Hofstra’s population of students, faculty, administration and staff feel on campus. We like to think that Hofstra offers the same sense of a home away from home to our international students as William and Kate Hofstra found here when they first arrived in their new home, as Mr. Gabriel describes so nicely in his essay, and we will continue to do whatever we can to make that happen, and therefore we appreciate his contribution to this discussion.
Neil H. Donahue,
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs
Director of International Student Affairs
This letter was written in repsonse to the op-ed “International students left to fend for themselves at Hofstra University,” originally published by The Hofstra Chronicle on March 7, 2017.
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