International Students May Lose I-Place as a Resource

Amani Khan ’23
Staff Writer
March 5, 2020

Recently, the Claremont Colleges have been involved in conversation about whether I-Place will continue as a shared resource. This discussion comes not long after two colleges of the seven in the consortium, Harvey Mudd College and Claremont Graduate University, withdrew from I-Place in the spring and summer of 2019, moving their resources to their respective campuses. Changes will potentially cause I-Place to cease involvement with the Claremont consortium.

I-Place is currently a shared resource, now among all five of the Claremont Colleges, for international students. I-Place services include New International Student and Scholar Information (NISSO) as well as other events to support the international community, including navigating a new culture, instructional tax workshops and subsidized trips during breaks where many international students are unable to travel home. In addition, I-Place functions as a second home and place of comfort for international students. Many Scripps students describe the resource as integral to their college experience.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson discussed the ongoing conversations regarding Scripps and I-Place’s relationship.

“The current discussions are focused on whether I-Place will continue as a shared service at the consortium. If I-Place continues to exist as a consortium service, Scripps will continue to participate as a consortial partner,” Johnson said. “Withdrawing would not be beneficial, and Scripps is not intending to withdraw.”

Currently, the remaining colleges are holding focus groups to discuss the matter. At Scripps, there were two focus groups with Dean Wells and Johnson on Jan. 29 and Feb. 26. for students to discuss their experiences as international students at Scripps and the Claremont Colleges.

International student and Scripps International Community (SIC) co-head Shringi Vikram ’20 explained I-Place’s role in helping her adjust to Claremont from Bangalore, India.

“I-Place gave me the confidence to be ok with where I came from, who I was and the experiences that I’ve had,” Vikram said. “Its presence made me feel like I had something to fall back on and somebody who understood my experience specifically.”

NISSO specifically allows international students to arrive on campus and move into their dorms early, along with complimentary airport pickups, events to help students get accustomed to Claremont and living in the United States including getting a sim card, opening a bank account, shopping trips, and workshops on understanding their visas. Anushe Engineer SCR ’22 relied on NISSO’s resources during her transition to college life.

“As a first-year, I was the only Pakistani at Scripps. Having NISSO and the international community to interact with is super helpful to feel connected,” Engineer said.

For Vikram, NISSO was a crucial part of her college experience,

“It puts you in touch with the rest of the Claremont community. [Adjusting to college and the United States] is quite difficult to go through without NISSO and without having that familiarity, programming and comfort that NISSO gives you,” Vikram said.

When asked about an alternative to NISSO if I-Place is no longer viable, Johnson stated that international students will still have resources available to them.

“If I-Place closes, Scripps will partner with several of the other colleges to provide an orientation experience focused on the needs of international students, based on feedback the students are providing,” Johnson said.

Based on the ongoing discussions taking place at Scripps, students have voiced frustration with the lack of communication between the administration with students, I-Place, and other 5C affiliated organizations.

Airi Sugihara ’22 spoke out about the lack of transparency in the school’s process, describing that several students were explicitly told to keep the discussions under the radar.

“I think they know that international students have a hard time speaking up because we’re not from places where it’s normal to protest, or stand up to rules,” Sugihara said. “For some people that’s a very new concept. They don’t take into consideration that sometimes international students aren’t used to this model and they don’t feel comfortable expressing things against administration.”

Students are especially concerned about Scripps’ lack of preparedness and resources for international students in the event that I-Place dissolves as a shared resource.

“My biggest concern is that we are lacking support for international students in general. We don’t have a dean who is well-equipped with knowledge to support international students…If I-Place pulls out, there’s not a lot of space for international students at Scripps” Sugihara said. “I don’t feel very comfortable going to the Deans at Scripps to talk about the hardships I’ve had as an international student.”

Many international students have expressed that there is no one at Scripps knowledgeable about the needs of international students, both administratively, and emotionally. They are concerned that without I-Place, Scripps, unlike other colleges in the consortium, currently lacks the resources to support their international students, and that the administration hasn’t communicated any concrete ideas about resources at Scripps to overcome the possibility of I-Place dissolving.

“The Scripps International community feels very close to I-Place partly because Scripps does no programming of its own internally and Scripps is also the least prepared of all the colleges to leave I-Place,” Vikram said.

Scripps staff said they remain committed to providing support for the needs of international students at Scripps.

Image Credit: Microsoft Experiences

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