By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley) – In an effort to ease the anxiety of international students at California State University, San Bernardino after the city’s Dec. 2 shooting incident, President Tomás D. Morales and top administrators assembled a forum on Feb. 8 to reassure its international students that they are an invaluable part of the university community.
In a letter to invitees, Morales said the event was organized to “confirm the campus’s commitment to internationalization and tolerance, and to remind them of support services available to them.”
Dignitaries in attendance included Abdulla Ali Al-Saboosi, consul general of the United Arab Emirates in Los Angeles; Kai-Uwe Spicher, consul and head of administration, scientific and cultural affairs, from the German Consulate General in Los Angeles; and Toshiki Tatara, associate professor of English, Yasuda Women’s University in Hiroshima, Japan. Yasuda University and CSUSB have been sister-campuses with a formal exchange agreement for more than 27 years.
Addressing more than 200 international students present, Morales said, “You made a bold decision choosing to pursue a university education thousands of miles away, leaving the comfort and familiarity of your homes and families. You have chosen an education that will prepare you for today’s workforce, in which global competency is among the top skills employers look for in college graduates.”
Morales stressed the importance of celebrating and promoting diversity at CSUSB by actively seeking and recruiting students, faculty and staff that “mirror our region and the world.” He said that to advance a diverse culture, “one must guarantee the safety of every member of our campus community.”
“This campus does not tolerate violence or disruptive behavior of any kind, be it verbal, physical or any other,” said Morales.
Various campus staff and administrators also spoke about the various support services offered at CSUSB, including the CARE team that responds to and monitors behavior on campus that is disruptive, poses a campus concern, or is a threat to self or others.
Other campus representatives included University Police, the Center for International Students and Programs, Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, the College of Extended Learning and two student clubs.
Dany Doueiri, associate professor in CSUSB’s Department of World Languages and Literatures and currently teaching “The World of Islam, also spoke at the forum.
“Recently, many investigative articles had been written about our local community. Unfortunately, after the Dec. 2 tragedy, we received additional bad publicity and this has negatively impacted our students and funding agencies who sponsor international students from all four corners of the world,” said Doueiri.
“When our campus takes concrete action to educate and extend itself to our international students, they feel comforted, cared for, and reassured that their safety does actually matter,” Doueiri said. “That measure of confidence will go a long way, and it is my hope that we continue to make them feel at ‘home-away-from-home.’”
Doueiri believes these open forums will create an educated community, which in turn, “creates a wiser, less reactionary and more tolerant population.”
“CSUSB has always been proactive (instead of reactive) to potential problems and threats, and I hope we continue with this policy,” Doueiri said. “These forums are just another example of how a relatively small investment yet meaningful acts of outreach can prevent costly tragedies. The Dec. 2 tragedy could have occurred in any city in the U.S., whether it was at the top of the (list) of the safest or the most criminal cities.”
Ranea Al-Tikriti, president of the CSUSB Muslim Student Association also spoke to the attendees. “I was pleased to share with all the international students present at the forum the resources available through our MSA club.
“Our student association is not exclusively for Muslim students, but rather, is open to every student of any nationality or faith that would like to learn about Islam and speak to fellow Muslim students,” said Al-Tikriti. “I invited them to join us every Tuesday in the SMSU Interfaith Center from 1-2 p.m., for an opportunity to answer any questions students may have regarding Islam.”
Al-Tikriti, who will graduate in June with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food sciences, said that she’s grateful CSUSB has so many resources to assist international students, including the Office of Student Engagement, the Center for International Students and Programs, the Psychological and Counseling Center, among many others.
Representing the Vietnamese International Student Association, club president Phong (Ryan) Vu, echoed the same message to those present. “We are so happy to support the San Bernardino community. Our association has always helped any CSUSB students experiencing physical or emotional problems,” he said.
“After the mass shootings in San Bernardino, we are all anxious to feel more safe and confident in our community,” said Vu, a senior majoring in human resource management.
The San Bernardino resident added that the Vietnamese International Student Association is offering aid to the CSUSB community and to other international associations as well.
The “Embracing Diversity” series will continue periodically throughout the academic year. The next forum is scheduled for the fall 2016 term.
Set in the foothills of the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains, CSUSB is a preeminent center of intellectual and cultural activity in inland Southern California. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015-2016, CSUSB serves more than 20,000 students each year and graduates about 4,000 students annually.
For more information about Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Strategic Communication at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.