Letter to the Editor
The safety of international students
Re "Tuition Increase Bring Students To the Board of Trustees," April 6: I am really disappointed in what Randal Lawson, executive vice president of SMC, said about international student, Chung Ho Lee's death.
I have studied at SMC as international student from Japan since 2003. I didn't know Chung Ho Lee, but I feel sorrow.
I am afraid many resident students at SMC just think like Lawson, "violence could happen to anyone," and then forget about the case.
I know he shouldn't have worked illegally, but I cannot blame him because I can understand his situation keenly. He came to the country with a big dream like other international students; he had been spending a lot of money as an investment in his future like us; he had financial problems like us. So, I felt as if it were my own affair.
It seems to me that SMC doesn't take international students seriously. I have been dissatisfied with the support system from SMC. I know the reason I have to pay 200 dollars/unit is that I don't pay tax in the country; I agree about that. However, instead of international students having to pay a lot of money without student loan or scholarship, SMC should offer more support and information for international students such as lending textbooks or emergency book loan like my friend who is a resident of California has received from financial aid office. Also holding financial workshops to give a lesson of how to manage money. The supports will truly help international students not only financially but also emotionally. If SMC had already had those supports, there was a possibility Chung Ho didn't need to die. Even though international students are just foreigners in the country, at SMC, we are also an important part of the campus like resident students, and I would hope that we wouldn't be treated lightly.
Speaking of Chung Ho Lee's death, international students tend to be uninformed of how to protect themselves in the country that people can have guns legally. It is sad fact that many international students live in dangerous areas because those areas tend to have cheaper rent. For that reason many international students don't have enough knowledge about where the dangerous areas in Los Angeles are, they choose their rooms only by the price of rent; soon after they start living, they notice the area is so dangerous. I lived in south LA for a while, and the area was the worst. At the time, I had no idea why the rent was so cheap until I lived there. I often heard gunshots and siren of police cars. I didn't open even a curtain because I was worried somebody would realize a girl was in the room. Now, I have moved to another part of the town, and finally I can live here safely. I think there are many international students like me.
I am sure if SMC doesn't understand the situation regarding international students, and just increase the tuition without any care of us, there is high possibility many international students will work and live in dangerous areas, and the tragic case of Chung Ho Lee will be repeated.
Financial problems of international students
Re the board of trustees meeting on Monday, April 4,2005: I was there to listen to the meeting about the rise of international students' tuition, and I was really impressed by the speech of Ms. Sucher, who was the professor of the international student, Chung Ho Lee, who was killed while working illegally. Then, it occurred to me that I should do something to stop the increasing tuition for international students. I hope my experience and opinion will help people to understand the situation of international students.
It is the little known fact that SMC put advertisements in magazines in Japan to get international students. Since people who have English skill can get the advantage of employment opportunity in Japan, there are many people who want to study in the United States, and there are also many magazines and books for those people. Usually, advertisements for schools in the magazines are for private colleges or private language schools. However, I had often seen the advertisements of SMC that say, "If you went to SMC and then transferred four-years University, you could save money!" It seems that SMC really wants to get many international students. I think it is because the money that international students spend stands as an important part of SMC. SMC is one of the schools that have the largest number of international students in CA. If SMC increases the tuition of international students again, many students would need to go back to their country or move to another college that offers cheaper tuition. As a result, obviously, SMC will get financial problem again.
It appears to me that many people in the country think Japanese students are rich. I accept that among the countries international students come from, Japan is one of wealthy countries. However, those Japanese who are lucky enough to be free from care of tuition are few. Even among Japanese, most students are barely making both ends meet.
Now, I have to pay more than 3000 dollars each semester for only school. Of course, I also need to pay for room, utility, and food. Moreover, I paid 600 dollars as a deposit to the Cell-phone Company and almost double the usual amount of money as a deposit for room because I am an international student. When I asked for "life line service (discount)" to SBC, they refused that because I am an international student. Not only me, but also many international students face paying more money than usual for car and health insurances. So, financial matters are one of the biggest stresses for international students, and the rise of tuition over several years has had a big influence on our lives.
That is why many international students work illegally. I know many international students who work to make a living. One of my friends works in a moving company and gets the income by cash. One day, my friend severely injured his hand accidentally during the job and had to go to the hospital and do rehabilitation. Sad to say, as an illegal worker, he couldn't ask compensation for an accident on the job. He is still working in the company in fear that immigration will find him. He has told me that he will get his AA degree soon, so he doesn't want to go back to Japan before graduation just because of financial issues. He also told me "the day I spend all money is the day I go back to Japan." I never worked in the country because I am really afraid that immigration will find me. If immigration were find to me, I would have to go back to my country immediately, and I would not be allowed to return to the United States for ten years. I don't want to take the risk. I have been spending a lot of money for tuition in the country. I don't want to waste the money. I want to go back to my country with my degree. However, I already spent all of my money that I saved since I was a high school student by working from 6 am. Now, I depend on my parents' help. I feel sorry for my parents, and sometimes, I wonder if I should go back to my country. I don't buy clothes; I cut my front of hair by myself to save money of hair salon because I feel guilty spending my parents' money. I often calculate how much I need until I graduate, and feel depressed for the amount of money. If SMC increases the tuition of international students again, there is a high possibility I would have to work illegally even though it is risky or go back to my country without a degree.
In the school, I have learnt a lot of things among people who have different cultures. Now, I know there are many countries, many different values, and ways of thinking. The school has many students who came from all around the world; that is the reason I chose here, and SMC should be proud of this well-mixed cultural school. Imagine SMC with only few international students. I don't think SMC could have the large number of classes and excellent teachers, and the beautiful library. I strongly believe that many resident students also receive these benefits from international students.
It seems to me that the trustees decide a rise of our tuition at first when SMC gets financial concern. I would like SMC thinks international students not as a source of finance, but as a source of making the college attractive.