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Letter to the Editor sparks debate, reveals deeper issues on campus

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

In Tuesday's issue of The Miami Student, we published an anonymous Letter to the Editor discussing why admitting international students for the wrong reasons is harmful to the education of everyone at Miami.

The letter has been the topic of heated discussion, both of those vehemently supporting the anonymous faculty member and those who believe the piece is racist and deplorable.

When we received the anonymous letter, we were faced with a choice of whether or not to publish the piece.

Rarely do we allow articles or quotes to be published anonymously; usually the only time we consider this acceptable is if the publication of someone's name could cause him or her legal or professional trouble.

Because of the nature of the topic and the views expressed, this particular Letter to the Editor warranted anonymity.

Although the piece is well-written and raises valid questions about the state of Miami today, the author realized that his or her words could be twisted in a way that could endanger his or her employment and harm relationships with students.

We at The Miami Student took this into consideration, and made the decision to publish the letter despite the author's anonymity.

Immediately, we saw an interesting split in reactions to the letter. Some people read thoroughly, taking into account the viewpoint and challenges faced by the writer before posting responses. Others clearly jumped to conclusions over what the faculty member was saying, quickly fueling a discussion entirely separate of what the author was trying to initiate.

One Facebook commenter, Erik Bergman, wrote, "I agree with you and during Family Weekend I was disappointed by the number of Students from Asia who thought they owned the sidewalks and would not step aside."

Bergman's comment displays a deeper issue at Miami, one of instantaneous racist comments and judgment, something that we touched on earlier this year.

We have previously written about the extreme lack of understanding between American and international students, and how students are so closed off to diversity that it creates a culture of ignorance and hatred on campus.

Bergman stating that international students "would not step aside" on the sidewalk shows not the rudeness of the international students, but the ignorance and hatefulness displayed by some toward people they see as different from themselves.

We do not feel this particular Letter to the Editor was a racist complaint directed at the university for admitting international students.

In reality, the piece seemed to display disappointment toward the university for admitting students who aren't prepared for Miami's challenging curriculum.

Some readers did and some did not agree. Others expressed they didn't feel the problem was limited to international students.

We have all sat in a class with a student who is either not intelligent enough to comprehend the material, or simply lacking the motivation to learn the subject matter.

We do feel admitting students who are not prepared to learn effectively in the classroom causes harm for those who are ready for these challenges, but whether that is the case with international students, we are not equipped to address.

If there is an issue with international students, perhaps it's not in their lack of ability, but in their cultural separation.

Facebook commenter Chris Curme brought up a valid point. "Cultural differences are so easily construed as rudeness. Imagine if you landed in China tomorrow. People there would probably think something was wrong with your attitude."

International students face an undeniable language barrier. They must also face isolation from resources, like family and familiarity, so necessary to mental and emotional health.

How often did all of us visit home as first-years?

We were nervous and alone in a new environment at college, separated from our friends and family and forced to succeed on our own. However, the comfort of home was never far off.

For international students, this discomfort is heightened.

One can only imagine the anxiety and isolation they would feel if they attended a university in a country with a different language and vastly different culture than their own.

The response on Facebook and The Miami Student website to the Letter to the Editor raises a number of questions, most of which we personally do not have answers to, but know are worthy of further thought. Are we, the university and student community, doing our part to provide an environment where all students feel they can succeed?

Consider the valid points that have been raised by the letter and the debate that follows.

If international students are not prepared for the classroom, as this faculty member believes, how can we ensure that international students are ready for the challenges?

It almost felt as though some individuals in the community had been waiting for an opportunity to voice their resentment, related to the classroom or not, for international individuals.

For the first time, rather than being confined to a private setting - jokes with friends or Yik Yak posts - individuals expressed disatisfaction in an open forum, with their names attached.

It is frightening that, rather than engage in level-headed debate about the preparedness of international students, people took it upon themselves to unleash a hateful diatribe.

Ugly comments drowned out discussion of what can be done to make the classrom more comfortable for people.

We stand by our publication of the anonymous letter, and we hope that this piece continues a greater discussion of what can be done to create a learning environment where both American and international students feel accepted and able to succeed.