Pennoni Action Committee
In June 2020, we formulated the Pennoni Action Committee (PAC), comprising staff from all units within the Pennoni Honors College, which aims to address and dismantle racism and other inequities within our college, our institution, our communities. Given this recent decision by Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), following weeks of civil action across the country in the face of systemic bias and racial injustice, we are only further committed to addressing inequities in higher education and at Drexel specifically.
Pennoni Honors College at Drexel University fosters curiosity, nurtures interests, encourages through challenges, and develops connections. We invite our students to actively share in our values: quality, community, and curiosity.
To that end, we recognize the ways in which universities are affected by and contribute to institutional racism and systemic bias through programmatic and curricular offerings, through hiring and promotion practices, through engagement with and of police forces, and through gentrification of neighborhoods.
To address and dismantle racism in our college, we have formed the Pennoni Action Committee. This committee, comprising staff from all units within the Pennoni Honors College, commits to the following:
- To solicit feedback and input regarding existing programs in the Pennoni Honors College and determine how we can better express solidarity with marginalized populations at Drexel and in Philadelphia from our student, staff, and faculty communities
- To share information, readings, and other resources that can help us forward social justice in our everyday practices via a SharePoint site available to the entire Drexel University community
- To devote specific days to learning and reflection (“Pennoni Pauses”)
- To collaborate with units across the Drexel campus and the city of Philadelphia to develop a better understanding of how issues of social justice affect us locally, nationally, and globally
- To develop programming and events influenced by the learning and reflection done during Pennoni Pauses and based on input from our student, staff, and faculty that can contribute to positive change in these communities
We acknowledge that these are starting points, and we look forward to building upon them as we continue to learn alongside our students, colleagues, and community members.
To Our International Students
The recent temporary procedural guidance by the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) SEVP polices our international students, endangers their presence in the US, and is fundamentally against everything we stand for as a College.
Our departments are centered around ambassadorship, research and learning across disciplines, discourse, and fostering global networks to solve problems. Therefore, this policy not only disrupts these students’ education but our communities. International students represent a significant portion of our Pennoni Honors College family, being:
- 14% of active members in the Honors Program
- 19% of STAR Scholars, over the past four years
- 57% of applicants for eligible fellowships, over the past 4 years
- 47% of active members of the Aspire Scholars Program
(These numbers represent data collected by staff in July, 2020.)
Many of these students participate in many of our programs, contributing their time, effort, and expertise to many opportunities across the college and the University. These are our students, our colleagues, our mentors, and our friends.
Student Response #1
“I'm trying my best not to think too much about the current circumstances because it's out of my control. It's kind of ridiculous because international students do everything "right" - I paid for a visa, I interviewed for this visa, I proved that I'm a non-immigrant, I got a scholarship, I worked part-time on campus every quarter, I got a good GPA, got good coops, I volunteered for the American communities, and I paid tuition and taxes and everything. After going through all of that and helping the American economy grow, to be treated like bargaining chips by policymakers, it's disheartening. They're using us to force universities to open up. The new policy cheapens our value in this country. I definitely am applying for jobs in other countries because it's just so stressful to be here. I'm not sure if the American dream really seems worth it to me anymore.” —Anonymous international PHC student
Student Response #2
“As international students, we often don’t speak up of the various inconveniences we face daily because we choose to treasure the opportunities over voicing the adversities. Most of us knew the challenges that laid ahead before we left our families behind. To understand why the recent ICE ruling hurts us, international students, so deeply, I would like to give you an insight into our minds:
- There is an on-going global pandemic. Most of our families are worried sick about our well-being with the cases in the United States continuing to worsen on a daily basis. Say if we do choose to leave, where do we go if our own countries won’t accept us? All international borders are still closed. Where do we go? Will we be stuck at the airport? Will we be repatriated?
- Attending college is expensive. Some of our families bleed themselves dry and take out huge loans pumping billions of dollars every year into the US economy. Now in addition to the health crisis, there is also an underlying economic crisis. If we do decide to attend college or stay on campus, with some of our parents being jobless, how can we ask them to send us money for rent? How do we pay tuition? We’re not eligible for FAFSA or the stimulus check. Do we take out a loan in the U.S.? (which is incredibly hard to do as an intl. student). Do we just cancel our dreams and not attend school to avoid insolvency?
- Say we decided to save money and return home to be with our families. With current travel restrictions, we are at risk of losing our visa’s if we stay more than 5 months away from the U.S. But, with current restrictions we don’t know if will be able to honor the 5-month rule. In that case, do we just watch all our hard work over the years go down the drain?
- If we do involuntarily go in violation of the rules, it becomes very hard to apply for visas in the future. Most countries like to know if you’ve ever had a visa revoked or if you’ve ever been deported. If the answer is a yes, in most cases the application is terminated without further consideration.
- Also, if we do return home and we happen to live in Asia or parts of the Middle East, we are looking at a time zone difference of 7+ hours. Will all professors be accommodating to our needs? Also, applications such as google-suite (G-suite) and VoIP calling channels are outlawed in some countries. If our school uses such means, how do we complete our course work?
- Some of us have pre-existing conditions or are immunocompromised. Forcing us to attend school is putting us and our faculty (who may/may not share similar conditions) at risk. I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it is for us to choose between falling sick in a country with an already overloaded medical system or losing out on everything we’ve worked towards.
- With less than 2 months to go before most schools commence, transferring out is a massive headache. Not only is the process arduous but also expensive. The whole process is very involved and takes a great deal of co-ordination between both schools. In addition, there is a worry of relocating everything.
These thoughts don’t even include some of the troubles graduating seniors are facing, nor does it include the predicament the soon to be freshman will face. Most of us realized the challenges we will have to face when coming to the U.S. and made a calculated decision to accept them. For example: We realized if we can’t secure employment within a month or two after graduation, we will be forced to leave the U.S. Or that sometimes, companies will lead us on to satisfy their diversity agendas and suddenly lose interest in our internship applications when they find out we do not “fit the residency requirements”. We acknowledged that we won’t be able to pursue our start up ideas or work most part-time jobs to pay bills, because we need to stay in compliance with our visa. We realize that we will have to spend thanksgiving and other holidays in the solitude of our dorms and resort to 3 AM video-calls to our families because it’s too expensive to travel home.
We realize all of this, yet, we are more than happy to be here because of the possibilities that lie ahead of us. We don’t bother to complain because we are grateful for the chance to change our lives for the better, despite being made to feel like a strain on the country’s resources. We internalize these realities on a daily basis, but with the on-going pandemic and recent ICE ruling we are truly at our wits’ end. We’re scared of what this means for all of us. However, seeing all our friends, faculty and schools come out to support and stand by us was incredibly moving, because we’ve never had any one stand by or for us. Yet, instinctively we are bracing for the worst because the odds are always stacked against us. We don’t fully know what to do and are relying on our designated school officials (DSO) to help navigate us through these trying times. We don’t often ask for much, but if you can help us, please contact your local representatives and voice your thoughts.” —Anonymous international PHC student