A packet from the U.S. Immigra-tion and Naturalization Service (INS) landed on the desk of Kathy Hammett, director of international student services, in early February—six months after the start of classes.
Inside were the names of the foreign students allowed into the country to study at the University this year, including one who never showed up. She hadn’t heard a word about this student, begging the question: Did he stay home or go to another school? Or is he possibly a terrorist?
It’s a question because one of the Sept. 11 terrorists was in the United States on a student visa. Hammett notified the INS, even though the agency stopped requiring universities to report on their international students due to a paperwork backlog. The agency didn’t respond, so the student’s whereabouts remain unknown.
That may soon change, however. Congress ordered a crackdown on students, and a proposed computerized tracking system at the INS will more easily keep up with students and identify those missing. While the effort is good in principle, it has problems, says Hammett. Foreign students account for only 2 percent of all temporary visas, and a proposed $95 fee to pay for the system is too high and unfair to students without credit cards or computers.
It’s an “unfunded mandate,” says Ron Slepitza, vice president for student development, and creates an unwelcome process. “It’s very uncertain if any of the alleged terrorists had any connections to universities, yet the focus is on tightening up on universities. We’re creating a climate where we don’t encourage students to study abroad.”