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Trump win unnerves Indian students as backlash rocks US campuses

US college campuses are being rocked by anti-Trump protests and growing incidents of hostility against foreign students and minorities.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   11-11-2016

Leafy and quiet American campuses which exude intellectual refinement and tranquility are in a surprising churn, struggling to come to terms with Donald Trump’s victory. For the most part, campuses from Boston to Los Angeles have been rocked by anti-Trump protests, but there are growing incidents of hostility being directed at non-white foreign students.

Flyers showing burly white men, wielding heavy duty assault rifles against the background of a fluttering American flag, sprung up like poison ivy on Wednesday in the sprawling Texas State University campus calling for "tar and feather vigilante squads."

"Now that our man Trump is elected and Republicans own both the Senate and the House — time to organize tar and feather vigilante squads and go arrest and torture those deviant university leaders spouting off all this diversity garbage," declared the flyer.

Other obnoxious flyers suggested packing the Rio Grande River with alligators, snakes and flesh-eating piranhas, so white students could watch the "gladiator spectacle" of Mexicans and immigrants "rush the wall only to get stanched and eaten by predators."

“I was shocked when I saw the flyer in the men’s restroom. Frankly, there’s never been anything so racist and intimidating on campus,” said engineering student Amar Kumar, who is a member of the large Indian Student Association at Texas State University.

"It's frightening to see this hostility directed at non-white students," said Reema Bhosale, who is enrolled for her Masters in Economics at Texas State University. “It makes you uncomfortable.”

The Indian students at Texas State University see safety in numbers. "I live in a campus residential hall with a lot of other Indian students so we are staying in groups when we go out at night," said Kumar.

On Tuesday, Trump beat his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton with a 10 percentage point lead in Texas which is America’s largest red state. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) data released by US immigration authorities’ show that the maximum Indian students, over 37 percent, study at schools in fiercely conservative Texas and the two bluest of blue states; California and New York.

"One of the core values of international education is about celebrating diversity and learning from differences," said Dr Rahul Choudaha, co-founder of interEDGE.org.

"Trump’s viewpoints are insular...It’s likely that policies will start looking inward and slow down international education exchanges and student mobility," said Choudaha. "Trump’s anti-immigrant stance may create stricter visa and immigration policies that may make it more difficult for students to come to the US and find internships and jobs."

With college application deadlines for the Fall 2017-2018 school year coming up quickly, admissions officers fear that the flurry of racist incidents could telegraph an unwelcome message and hurt their chances of recruiting international students.

For decades, the US has been the gold standard in education and exerted a strong pulling power on Indian students. India sends the second biggest contingent of foreign students to America after China. According to the annual “Open Doors” report compiled by the Institute of International Education, the number of Indian students enrolled in US institutions rose to 132,888 in 2014-2015. However, the vitiated atmosphere in US college campuses after Trump’s victory could put off some foreign students.

Within days of Trump’s mercurial victory, posters promoting a white nationalist organization called Identity Evropa led by Iraq war veteran Nathan Damigo were plastered across campuses urging Americans to protect their White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) “heritage.”

The Texas State and Identity Evropa flyers are just the tip of the iceberg.

"At San Jose State University in California, a Muslim woman complained that she had been grabbed by her hijab and choked. The police are investigating," reported "The New York Times."

"At Wellesley College in Massachusetts, alma mater of Hillary Clinton, two male students from nearby Babson College drove through campus in a pickup truck adorned with a large Trump flag, parked outside of a meeting house for black students, and spat at a black female student," added the US newspaper.

Meanwhile, thousands of students from the University of Texas, Austin, the University of Southern California and universities in New York have spilled out of classrooms to take part in massive anti-Trump street rallies.

"Not my president," chanted vocal students in rallies from the East to the West Coast.

A colossal "white-lash" helped Trump clinch the presidency. He was propelled all the way to the White House by angry white voters unhappy with unemployment and static incomes in the rust belt who bought into his evocative promise to "Make America Great Again." They block voted for Trump because they feel immigrants —from Latinos to Asians — have poured into America and stolen their jobs. A first-time politician, Trump ran one of the nastiest presidential campaigns by playing the race card and being xenophobic, but Americans are hoping that he will not govern like he campaigned. Still, Trump has let the genie out of the bottle and the impact is now being felt across American college campuses.


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Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London. 

     
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