Tufts supports Afghan student community amid current crisis


As members of the Tufts community affected by the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan grapple with the ongoing crisis, community members have worked tirelessly to support students and address the lack of engagement on the campus around the issue.

Andrew Shiotani, director of the Tufts International Center, has been one of the community members to engage closely with affected students – supporting Afghan students through academic, financial and mental health challenges. The International Center has particularly focused on helping two new Afghan students.

Tufts’ support for community members affected by the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has drawn increased attention, including an email acknowledgment from President of Anthony Monaco University, as the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches.

“While recent events in Afghanistan have undoubtedly caused us all to pause and reflect, Tufts is committed to supporting our students and academics in the region, and as a member of the broader community of the higher education, ensuring that academics, especially women, receive a haven of peace to pursue their research in the true spirit of academic freedom ”, President Monaco wrote to the Tufts community.

In addition to the panoply of administrative services that are mobilized to support students in the spirit of Message from the President of Monaco, students and Tufts organizations have also mobilized, according to Tufts South Asian Regional Committee (SARC).

“Many students and student groups have also either organized their own fundraisers or spent time and effort raising funds for external fundraisers to help the Afghan people,” SARC said. in an email to The Daily.

SARC is optimistic that community events focused on the Afghan crisis will allow students to learn more about the region.

“Any lack of engagement or talk about the crisis at Tufts could likely be attributed to a lack of awareness or understanding of the crisis. SARC noted.

The limited number of Tufts students in the region may be contributing to the lack of knowledge about the crisis. AAccording to the Tufts University Fact Book, a compilation of characteristics of the Tufts student body, Tufts sponsored only one student visa from Afghanistan in publication date 2020, for a member of the Fletcher School. The number of students from the Middle East and North Africa is also low.

According to Shiotani, it is difficult to attribute the limited number of students in the region to a single factor.

“I think the listing is affected by a number of factors,” Shiotani said in an email to The Daily. “The International Center monitors the impact of U.S. visa and immigration policy and operations on student enrollment trends, but enrollment can also be affected by demographic factors (population size, overall size of the student population); the economic and political conditions of a particular country or region; the strength of alumni networks and historical ties and relationships with schools and colleges in the country or region; [and] home country and US government support for international education, including availability of scholarships.

Despite the limited representation of students on campus, clubs and organizations strive to make the voice of Afghans heard in order to educate community members. One of these efforts – done in collaboration between Tufts Middle East Research Group (MERG) and SARC – included a symposium covering US involvement in Afghanistan, regional implications of Taliban control and the impact of Taliban control over Afghan women.

“Given the importance of this moment and the lack of adequate media coverage and discussion on campus and across the country, we are currently hosting a symposium on September 23-24 to cover different aspects of the current situation,” sophomore Zack Burpee and junior Carolina Hidalgo-McCabe, co-chairs of MERG, said on behalf of the club in an email to The Daily. “We want to provide a forum for regional experts, activists and, most importantly, Afghan voices to share their perspective with the Tufts community. “

Tufts’ response to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has also drawn attention to how the university has traditionally supported international students affected by crises in their home countries, most recently the COVID-19 pandemic. . Shiotani added that this most recent crisis is not the first mobilization of academic resources to support the international community at Tufts.

Unfortunately, members of the international community can and have been affected by different types of crises in their home countries, including natural disasters, civil unrest and other humanitarian crises, ”said Shiotani. “More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the effects of these events, while being a major threat in itself to the safety and well-being of our students and their families, friends and neighbors. . The response of the International Center in such situations varies somewhat depending on [on] specific situation, but we will always make efforts to reach out and be available to advise and work with students, individually or collectively, regarding their specific needs and concerns.

As Afghanistan enters its second month under Taliban control – with a growing economic crisis – affected South Asian students in the region have leaned on each other.

There has certainly been discussion of the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan among Tufts students and in particular Tufts students from South Asia, mostly on social media, ”SARC wrote. “As South Asian students, the crisis in Afghanistan is certainly hitting many of us closely and there is not just one way to deal with it, but it is clear that most of us we are determined to engage in a discourse on the crisis and to seek ways to help. “