Beyond the purple bubble: Increasing international awareness on campus

On Sept. 27, an email popped up in my inbox from the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, with a subject line that read: “Supporting Each Other in the Midst of Tragic National Events.” The email went on to talk about the tragedies that have occurred in our nation in the past several weeks, and how the College was organizing a space in which members of the community could “reflect, listen, speak and support each other.”

As a student at the College, I consider myself extremely lucky to be a part of a community that not only addresses issues as sensitive as police brutality under the guise of safety and security, but also encourages and fosters discussion about such events. Among the many reasons that I decided to attend the College was its markedly progressive nature — few other institutions in this country actively promote dialogue about events that a large number of the general public chooses to ignore. It is this policy of addressing problems and giving voice to issues that otherwise are left silent that is a small part of what makes the College so special, and I believe that the administration does an excellent job of this. Simultaneously, however, the College and community as a whole are guilty of something that the vast majority of people in this country also are: the failure to successfully cultivate international awareness, especially in terms of some of the injustices that are rampant overseas.

For instance, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte recently likened his campaign against drug addicts, one that has already killed more than 3100 people, to the Holocaust. In Syria, the civil war that has been ongoing since 2012 has taken more than 300,000 lives, and the death toll is increasing by the day. Just this Friday, there were reports of more than 300 people killed in eastern Aleppo. In China, press freedom is at an all time low: 49 journalists and bloggers are imprisoned as of last December, and governmental authorities have “imposed restrictions on two well-known finance publications that … reported on corruption,” according to Freedom House.

Although the magnitude of the horror of these situations is apparent, especially when considering how recent they are, they have rarely played a part in conversations among my peers that center around injustice in the world. It is logical that domestically prevelent injustice is most concerning to Williams students. Police brutality and institutional racism are matters that are of utmost importance and ones that need to be addressed immediately, but it is important to keep in mind the fact that the College is home to an international community.

The College tries to make education affordable for international students. In fact, during the 2015-2016 school year, U.S. News & World Report ranked the College number one in average financial aid awarded to international undergraduates studying in the U.S. One reason the school attempts to be as affordable as possible for foreign students is that many of these students come here not only to study, but also to step into their roles as members of this community. International students have backgrounds that are as diverse as one could possibly imagine, and the administration encourages the sharing of these backgrounds so that we can create a more informed and vibrant community.

Now, I am not claiming that this goal isn’t achieved: In my short time here, I have already gained so much knowledge about the world through the perspectives and experiences of my friends who hail from Europe, East Asia and the Greater Middle East, just to name a few. What I am saying, however, is that the administration should take a more active role in terms of encouraging both the sharing of the wealth of personal experiences that the student body has to offer, as well as an increased acknowledgment of international current events. As members of the College community, we are extremely lucky to call such a prestigious and privileged institution our home, but we also have an obligation to give back to this community, and in terms of international awareness, I believe there is ample progress to be made.

Taran Dugal ’20 is from Ridgefield, Conn. He lives in Sage.


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