Life Has Been Hell for Seattle's Incoming International Scholars



Like a great joke Rich saves the punchline for the end. "This is by definition how institutionalized racism and xenophobia works: It’s not an institutional policy, but the impacts remain." No, this is how large institutions with multiple layers of bureaucracy work when they are trying to solve a large scale problem with limited information. They are simply not designed to move quickly or act nimbly and while it sucks that some people are caught in the inaction there is not some insidious plot behind it. If you want to make the case that UW is especially inept then you could have reached out to some other major universities and see how or if they are solving this problem but I suppose it's just easier to lay everything at the feet of racism.


@1, a policy doesn't have to be intentionally or explicitly racist to have an unintended impact on racial minorities.

Take a different example from education. More and more schools are issuing laptops or tablets to high school students. Great. More tech savvy education, right? But not all kids have access to wi-fi at home. So for these students, the tablet/laptop is just an expensive door stop once they leave the school. Generally, it is the poorest students that have no wi-fi access. And generally minorities are more likely to be poor and have no wi-fi. So if you simply issue all students a tablet and say "hooray, we're treating everyone equally", then the unintended consequence is that you are giving an advantage to wealthier (whiter) students, and a disadvantage to poorer (minority) students. Such a policy isn't intentionally or explicitly racist, but it clearly has an unintended racist outcome. So, to overcome the unintended negative impact on minorities, you have to go one step further, and provide internet access to kids who don't already have it.

Likewise, policies that negatively effect foreign students can have an unintentional racial outcome, even if that was never the intent, simply because a disproportionate number of foreign students aren't white.


How is this confused situation not xenophobic - when the graduate students (and TAs and RAs)affected are by definition foreign, since they must have visas to be in the U S?


@3: 'Unintentional racism' is an inherently disingenuous term because it already acknowledges that the offending party is not an active participant.

Why not simply say that internet access should be afforded to students who can't afford it and leave racism out of it?


@3 This is exactly one of the problems with the over used application of racism today. Any policy, any law, any process will not have an equal outcome for everyone affected by it. If you go by the definition you are ascribing above, everything is racist. If everything is racist, then nothing is racist. When most people talk about racism they are implying discrimination on the basis of race and to meet that criteria you would have to show other races are not impacted in the same manner. In your examples all poor people are receiving an inferior education and all foreigners are impacted regardless of nationality. The fact that BIPOC are more likely to be poor has no bearing on whether the policy is racist. You simply cannot ever guarantee an equal outcome for everyone and to assume malice by those who are unable to control every variable is creating needless conflict that does nothing to solve actual problems. I know there will be many who disagree with that position and I would challenge them to provide an example of any law or policy that is not inherently racist using the criteria laid out.


@4 same response to you as @3. By your definition any policy that impact foreigners is xenophobic since it targets them negatively. I don't see bad faith on the part of the UW in this situation. They, like all major institutions, were not prepared for the Covid crisis and are adapting as they go to changing regulations. If you want to call out the UW then show me how they are doing something different than other major universities faced with the same situation. I would wager if you looked at any university right now including those in other countries they are all going through the same pains. That's not xenophobia that's bureaucracy.


@3, It's kind of strange to say this is institutionalized racism. This is the results of tax policies that treat people working in the US differently than those living abroad. I guess you can call this xenophobic, but then every country in the world is going to treat residents differently than those living abroad... which we should all be happy about. For example, the government of China isn't coming to you to pay your income tax simply because you don't live there (I assume). If you suddenly find yourself living in China for the foreseeable future, as some of those affected by what is described in this article are now, this will change in ways that are not easy to sort out for you or your employer. I guess you can call this institutional racism or xenophobia, but it's really about how countries tax their residents. Tax policies by necessity affect non-residents differently than residents. Saying they're racist or xenophobic because of this really makes those terms useless.

Also, expecting any institution or company to sort this out for every country in the world where they now have an employee by the end of summer is not realistic. This is years worth of work which if not done property will see the institutions or employees run into problems with either the IRS or their local tax authorities.


Doesn't this provide an opportunity for some Washington grad student residents to incur less student debt by working in these positions until these international PhD and post-doc students are able to return?