At Rollins, Students Advocate on Behalf of Unsupported Peer

We need academic institutions to support students who may be affected by immigration laws. Currently, students, student-run organizations and community-based organizations have stepped up as leaders and champions for immigrant student rights.

As Rollins School of Public Health (RSPH) was starting its first day of school, the #MoveMountains4Anne was popping up on Rollins Facebook groups. Anne Chumbow (19PH), an international student studying global health needed help fundraising for her 2017-2018 tuition totalling $29,400.

If I do not pay this money I will have to leave the country and only return when I have the funds,” Chumbow wrote on her GoFundMe page. “This is a problem because I may never be able to come back and finish my studies. I risk losing all that I have worked for, dreamed about and may never be a game changer in the healthcare field.”

Chumbow experienced difficulty in obtaining a student loan after trying to cosign with five different individuals, according to her GoFundMe statement. While the Emory Alliance Credit Union grants international students loans without a cosigner, RSPH has no established partnership with the Union, making Rollins students without nursing connections ineligible.

While many Emory students were enjoying a snow day on Jan. 16, nine female Rollins students organized on behalf of Chumbow. The students created a petition, Facebook event for a on-campus social media blast event and templates for email, phone calls, tweets and posts. As of press time, a total of $18,306 has been fundraised, but the set deadline of Jan. 25 is just around the corner.

If Chumbow cannot raise enough money, she will have to return to Cameroon without completing her first year at Rollins. Hubert Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Health Carlos del Rio directed a post to students on the global health department’s closed Facebook page Jan. 20. Del Rio stated that the department is aware of the situation and is working with Chumbow. He applauded students’ efforts, writing that they demonstrated and care.

Although del Rio’s statement to the global health community is commendable, Chumbow’s situation is not only significant in the department but also in the entire Rollins program. According to del Rio’s post, 25 percent of students in the global health program come from countries outside the United States. As previously mentioned, Rollins students without a nursing connection are ineligible for student loans from the Emory Alliance Credit Union, and the International Students Program and Services at Rollins is limited specifically by their lack of an onsite legal support team, in addition to staff who share immigrant identities and experiences with international students.

The bottom line is that graduate student support services at Rollins — for both domestic and international students — are weak. I have experienced firsthand the struggle of seeking student support services, which resulted in being referred to various undergraduate offices that are tailored for undergraduate experiences. While I am thankful for their existence and welcoming attitude toward graduate students, Rollins should understand the importance of in-house support services for their student body.

I direct these questions to Rollins: How does the program not see the intense and unique experiences students face in graduate school that differ from those of undergraduates? Why do you think our identities ceased to exist the minute we walked through Rollins doors?

The engagement #MoveMountains4Anne has had with Rollins staff and faculty members highlights another reality: Negotiations happen in the shadows.

The maneuvering of supportive efforts seem to be done in a manner that saves face, preserves an established reputation and does not upset donors. Faculty who may support students’ efforts do so cautiously as to avoid putting themselves and their careers at risk. Statements (and Facebook posts) are made only after students make commotion, and buzzwords are overwhelmingly used along with vague progressive language. The statements are sprinkled with statistics that confirm the University’s dedication to diversity and spotlight the understaffed, underfunded and overworked offices that do exist to support students.

That is not enough.

Chumbow is not the first to experience this trauma, nor will she be the last. Rollins needs to implement some of their own philosophies of preventative health, the importance of mental health and effective community-based partnerships. Especially, Rollins needs to recognize that their current research projects such as Clarkston-Rollins Connection carry the same weight for students who share the same identities, citizenship status and dreams of the program participants. Until then, we — the students and community based organizations —  cannot afford to stop being our siblings’ keepers.

Isabeth Mendoza is a second year Rollins Graduate student from Los Angeles.

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