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Foreign MIT Students Not Called Back Home

By Christine Fry

Following the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., international students at several local universities have been told to prepare to return to the Middle East.

Danielle Ashbrook, Director and Associate Dean of the MIT International Students Office, said she was unaware of any MIT students being asked by their sponsor government to return in light of last week’s attacks. Rumors had been circulating on campus that MIT students were being recalled.

However, Ashbrook has spoken to officials from Northeastern University and Boston University who confirmed that some sponsored students have been contacted by their governments. However, Northeastern’s International Student Office declined to comment. Northeastern Spokesman Edward E. Klotzbier denied knowledge of any affected students. Klotzbier says that Northeastern’s main concern at the moment is getting international students back into the country. Northeastern’s fall term begins September 20, and some students were on international flights last week that were diverted to Canada.

Boston University officials could not be reached for comment.

Not all students affected

Not all students from a particular country have been asked to return. The possibility of returns “doesn’t seem to be across the board,” Ashbrook said. Nothing has officially been declared by foreign governments. “Everyone’s afraid to make generalities.”

Mohammad B. Kaleem ’02, president of the Muslim Students Association, says he has not heard of any MIT students in his group being called back. He said that he did not think students would want to go home because “the administration has done a lot to promote understanding [and] harmony.”

Basel Y. Al-Naffouri ’02, a government-sponsored student from Saudi Arabia, said that he had not been asked him to return, nor did he foresee such a thing happening unless it becomes dangerous for Arabs to live in the United States.

“People are supportive at MIT,” Al-Naffouri said.

Some of the affected students were reportedly from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, but officials at both embassies were unaware of any students being recalled.

Some foreign countries provide scholarships for native students to study at universities in the United States. In return for government sponsorship, students are usually required to return to their home countries at the end of their time in the U.S. Although the International Students Office does not keep records on how international students fund their education at MIT, Ashbrook estimates that there are only a “handful” of international students who are sponsored by foreign governments.

Alumni affected by attacks

MIT’s Alumni Association has also had to deal with the aftermath of last week’s events, as many MIT graduates work in both MIT and Washington, D.C. An online bulletin board, located at <http://alumweb.mit.edu/are-you-ok>, has been established for alumni to notify others of their status, or if they have heard of any missing alumni.

To date, no MIT alumni have been reported missing on the bulletin board. However, some said that they were working in the Pentagon when the crash occurred, and many more were working in New York at the time.

The Association itself is not actively trying to contact alumni, but Executive Vice President and CEO William J. Hecht ’61 asked members of the MIT community to contact alumni they know in the affected areas and encourage them to contact each other through the website.

Thomas D. Halket ’70, chairman of the MIT Club of New York, says that his club has a list of nearly 200 alumni who were in the World Trade Center or surrounding buildings at the time of the attack. The club is attempting to contact each person individually. Halket said that he is not currently aware of any alumni in the area who were killed in the attacks. He estimates that less than half of the people on the list actually worked in the towers, and of those, none worked for companies that suffered heavy losses.