Letter to the Editor: International Office should get rid of student technology fee

I was heartened by the recent article in the Daily concerning Northwestern’s increased support for international students — they need it now more than ever. However, I was dismayed the article did not mention the $50 technology fee international students have been asked to pay beginning this year.

According to the International Office, there are no additional reporting requirements from the government, but the Department of Homeland Security is increasing its scrutiny on the immigration status of foreign students by more strictly enforcing its Unlawful Presence Policy. The technology fee pays for software which is meant to keep better track of students and streamline communication between the IO and students. It appears that until now, the IO has been held together with Google forms, Eventbrite, MailChimp and Excel documents.

While the IO says this software will benefit international students, questions remain about how precisely the data it aggregates will be used. For example, will personal information be passed along to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which is under the jurisdiction of DHS? Moreover, how does reporting data about international students to DHS benefit them in the first place?

These questions aside, it’s not clear why international students should bear this cost alone. The entire NU community benefits from the presence of international students, and we should all do our part to ensure they can remain here. The University cannot publicly claim to support international students while insisting they pay a special fee to meet the reporting demands of a notoriously xenophobic presidential administration.

Most egregious, even though IO has researched and proposed this fee for over a year and the provost approved it in June, students only heard about this — and the changes in the Unlawful Presence Policy — at the end of August. When pressed on why this fee is being passed onto students so quietly, IO representatives simply state that the Provost has approved these charges. It’s worth noting NU has been experiencing a massive and unexpected budget deficit this past year, and I can only wonder if adding the technology fee is simply the University becoming more efficient.

This fee raises serious concerns, and I was proud to join nearly 600 students, faculty and alumni who signed a recent petition requesting that Northwestern consider its discriminatory effects. I urge NU to repeal this fee and adopt greater transparency regarding the software for which it is supposed to pay.

Kitty Yang
Doctoral Candidate, Mathematics