Open letter to students from Monique Turner (Ph.D., MSU, 1999), Chair of the Department of Communication and Brandon Van Der Heide (Ph.D., MSU, 2009), Director of Doctoral Studies
We are reaching out because we know that, right now, it is a difficult time to be an international scholar—much harder than it should be. Some of you have had to leave East Lansing—many of you in a hurry—in order to be able to make it back before your home country closed its borders. Others of you are here, in the United States, with limited options for leaving when what you really want is to be with your family and friends.
This probably wasn’t the experience you dreamed about when you imagined pursuing your education in America. You might have imagined that you’d be getting a world-class education and a world-class cultural experience: American football, cheeseburgers, optimism, and opportunity—the things the United States of America is known for. But it’s been clear that you got some things you didn’t bargain for, as well.
In the past few days, some American politicians used rhetoric that is demeaning. Phrases like the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus” have worked to make our international community feel like invaders—many of you have felt blamed as the cause of this virus. Moreover, some people have used these names as fuel to attack and demean and to make your American experience worse. And, we have heard from many of you that this has instilled pain and fear into your lives, into your children’s and parent’s and friends’ lives.
We, here at MSU, believe in a fundamentally different kind of American experience: when things get really bad, we come together. We think less about our differences and we become greater than the sum of our parts. We take care of one another, and we never, ever, lose sight of our unbridled optimism—our hope for what the future can hold. Of course, these values are not uniquely American values. And, when you chose MSU, you chose to interweave your story, your life, with ours. You chose those values too. We are better off because of you.
So, we want you to know that we are NOT okay with language, sentiments, or attributions that alienate you and make you feel like the other. This virus doesn’t have a nationality or an ethnicity, it doesn’t have a race or a religion. It is a human virus—period. It affects us all and all of us are in this together.
Please know how much you are valued here at MSU. You are a Spartan. You are a part of our story—and we do not take that for granted. We look forward to seeing you face to face once again in our classrooms, our labs, and our conference rooms—until then, let us all embody what it means to be a Spartan and look out for each other—and know this: We’ve got your back.