As Americans, we have been used to being able to travel in other countries, and we have repaid that favor with the kindness of letting foreign students attend our universities. What if we decided to close our doors to students from nations with ideologies we disagree with?
The first steps toward limited foreign-exchange education in the United States were made this week in the Florida State Legislature. The legislature is trying to pass a bill that would eliminate financial aid for students from countries such as North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran and Cuba. It would affect students who are nonresidents who are in the United States on student visas.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Dick Kravitz, R-Jacksonville, said the bill isn’t intended to keep these students locked out of the United States, or out of Florida’s colleges, instead it is designed to discourage students from using Florida tax money.
On Wednesday, the bill passed a House committee with an 8-5 vote. There are about 450 students from terrorist countries currently studying in Florida. If other states decide to follow Florida’s lead, thousands of other students will be denied funds they need to go to school.
Similar steps have not been made in the current session of the Colorado General Assembly, but if the bill succeeds in Florida, it might be only a matter of time until our own universities lock their doors to people from terrorist countries.
Being from a country that is labeled as a terrorist haven doesn’t make you a terrorist. If enacted, this bill would discriminate against a selected group of people, something America shouldn’t be about even in a time of war. It can’t be assumed that a student wishing to come to the best university system in the world in America is plotting to go back to their country to wage war against us. What if these students just wish to understand American ways in order to broaden their perspective of the world, much like our own students strive to do? They need our help to understand why America is angry at the countries they are from even if we have to pay for parts of their education from our taxes.
The American Civil Liberties Union has regarded this legislation as useless in the fight against terrorism, citing that 15 of the 19 known Sept. 11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, a nation that is not on the list of terrorist-supporting countries.
There is a big question to consider in this debate. Should students who are only going to schools here be able to have the same rights as citizens have? Up until the terrorist attacks, that was the case. Should we now close the doors of education that we leave open to the rest of the world because we are afraid? I don’t think so.
At the CSU Study Abroad Fair Wednesday, hundreds of students from this university attended because they were interested in expanding their horizons by learning in a different culture or country. Despite the fear many people have of traveling after Sept. 11, American students still have the desire to learn more about places they might not fully understand.
It is necessary, especially in a time like this, for people to be able to travel to other places in order to understand them better, and people from other cultures should have the same opportunity in America.
Josh Hardin is a senior majoring in technical journalism.