When Wittenberg American International Association (AIA) was informed last week of the termination of a key position in the Office of International Education, international students were furious. Lisa Lui, assistant director of the Office of International Education, who deals primarily with international students, is being let go at the end of this year.
The Wittenberg international student community and AIA have teamed up to prevent Lui from losing her position. Ya Haddy Sallah, president of AIA, insists that the Wittenberg community will suffer without Lui. Currently, Director of the Office of International Education JoAnn Bennett handles study abroad for American students, while Lui oversees everything related to international students. Sallah praises Bennett’s hard work and efficiency, but insists that it is impossible for her to handle all of the work. If Lui leaves, she stated, both international students and students hoping to study abroad will suffer.
“If Lisa walks away with the way the study abroad office is structure, I feel like we’re going to be neglected and we’re not going to be able to cope as international students,” said Sallah. “JoAnn is amazing and we can go to her, but she cannot address all those concerns.”
Lui puts a great deal of work into helping international students feel welcomed on campus and ensuring that they have all the resources needed to study in America, such as social security and a driver’s license. When international students first arrive on campus, Lui takes them shopping to buy linens and other necessary items they can’t take on a plane, introduces them to the town, and helps them complete the paperwork necessary to stay in the country. Among other things, Lui helps students file taxes, get health insurance and file claims, obtain permission to work in America, and helps students who want to intern in America after graduation gain permission to do so.
Menna Abaye, vice president and public relations of AIA, expressed the innumerable number of tasks Lui performs would be difficult to replace.
“Her [Lui’s] position has been instrumental in keeping us on track and making sure we remain students of this university for all four years of our undergraduate careers…through one on one interaction and ensures that our voices are heard on campus,” said Abaye. “She helps us with our basic, day to day obligations.”
Sallah and Abaye sent an email last week to all the international students informing them of the university’s decision. Sallah states that before this email, students were unaware of the decision and that she has heard many negative reactions.
“She [Lui] really made me feel welcome here,” said Cameron Mackintosh, a junior from South Africa. “Given the financial difficulties that the university faces, I think it’s more important than ever for us to market Wittenberg internationally. The current population of international students at Wittenberg is tiny and is getting smaller.”
“I personally think the university should not cut the position because there are many different tasks in the international office,” said Iris Qiu, a junior from China. “I understand that the university needs to cut its budget…, but I hope they can reconsider cutting Lisa’s position. It is an important and necessary position overall.”
Currently, AIA plans to talk with Provost Christopher Duncan to explain the necessity of Lui’s position. After this, the group plans to organize a petition to keep Lui at Wittenberg in the hopes of gathering more support from the community. Beyond the petition, AIA plans to involve other campus groups, such as Concerned Black Students (CBS), and emphasize how this issue relates to a larger conversation about diversity on campus.
“We talk about diversity and becoming global citizens and we play a part in that,” said Sallah. “It will affect other groups. It’s beyond us. For the school to go ahead and do something like this without talking to us…makes me feel underappreciated. I don’t know Wittenberg without Lisa.”