News from Other Higher Education Institutions

By Danika Robison

News coming out of other higher education institutions is interesting for our work on diversity, equity, and inclusion. This issue, we are looking at the University of North Carolina’s decision to provide a controversial statue and $2.5 million to a Confederate group and an ICE operation targeting international students.

Protesters at UNC criticize funding Confederate group in deal over Silent Sam

For over 100 years, the statue of a Confederate soldier known as “Silent Sam” stood in the heart of campus at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Protesters tore down the statue last year, but outrage over the statue’s fate and the university’s handling of the issue is continuing. Last week, UNC’s Board of Governors released their decision to hand over the statue to the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV). The UNC system will pay the group $2.5 million to preserve Silent Sam and to build a new facility for its display. In response to the decision, protestors gathered again. While they are pleased the statue is gone from campus, they are highlighting that the issue is far from resolved. They believe the UNC system’s investment in protecting a statue dedicated to enslavement of black people demonstrates apathy toward minoritized students, and supports violence and hate. Protesters also believe that UNC is trying to silence them, and are urging leadership to invest in students instead of giving millions to apologists of slave owners.  

Sons of Confederate Veterans states that the organization “is preserving the history and legacy of Confederate heroes, so that future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause.” UNC will pay the $2.5 million gift to SCV through its endowment, which is built by donations. Critics believe that UNC’s decision actively supports SCV in continuing to distort information about the true history and legacy of the Civil War. Student, faculty and community anti-racism activists say that they will not back down in demanding that the UNC system take steps to demonstrate a commitment to fostering equality, and support students and faculty of color. The activists are asking administrators to proactively address their concerns, so that university decisions can take a stand against hate and bigotry. They suggest that funding be allocated to invest in scholarships, create spaces that support minoritized students, and back campus groups taking action to address racism. 

Recruiters for fake university run by ICE sentenced

This week, recruiters were sentenced for luring 600 international students to a scam university operated by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. University of Farmington sought out students who were recently enrolled at US universities that have lost their accreditation. Students report being solicited to attend Farmington – based in Michigan – as soon as their schools became disaccredited. Many say they were hoping to find a new institution to enroll in quickly, to keep their F-1 student visa, and to avoid returning to their home countries to begin the extended process of new school and visa applications. Undercover agents posing as school officials targeted these students who found themselves in a time-sensitive search. Most of the students that enrolled at Farmington came from institutions such as Silicon Valley University and Northwestern Polytechnic, which targeted international students and offered a weak or nonexistent education, while promising visas and access to high-paying jobs. This illegal practice exploits foreign nationals and is known as “pay to stay.”

Farmington University advertised itself as an accredited institution, but in reality, offered no academic or vocational programs – intentionally deceiving students in an attempt to deport them. The Detroit Free Press reported that immigration authorities arrested 250 students enrolled at Farmington – most were deported, others have been offered “voluntary deportation” – which comes with a 10-year ban from entering the US. Other students are challenging their removal, while many are struggling to pay back loans for tuition. Critics point to the scam as “cruel” and “a waste of taxpayer dollars.” ICE and the Department of Justice are defending the tactic as legitimate in order to protect against visa fraud, and say students that enrolled understood there were no academic programs. Most recruiters for University of Farmington were enrolled themselves and earned cash or collected credits for enrolling more students. All eight recruiters pled guilty and were sentenced to at least a year in jail for harboring foreign students for profit and conspiracy to commit visa fraud.