BU International Students Ask For Worldwide Shipping from BU Housing

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Goals of this petition

  • International Students have been left out of the University’s plan to retrieve belongings by being given two options: storing belongings on campus until Fall semester or shipping them to a “proxy” address in the United States.
  • International students should have access to their personal effects regardless of which party holds burdens on the cost of shipping. The University has yet to lay out an option for international students to access their belongings even if they are willing to pay the costs for shipping.
  • Options for the University to give equivalent access to personal effects for international students could be:
    - International shipping of all belongings at no cost to the student
    - Shipping essential items such as clothes, shoes, medication, official papers, and academic and professional resources internationally at no cost to students
    - Shipping non-essential personal effects to international students at their own expense
    - Shipping credit given to students for all items
  • The University’s actions would serve as an acknowledgment that their late response and late notification to international students of campus closure caused said students to be forced to leave behind most belongings in the first place.

Please read for more information

On Friday, 8th of May, Boston University announced a “university-wide” plan for students to retrieve belongings left in their dorms. This plan surprisingly did not provide international students with the option to get their belongings shipped outside of the continental United States. International students make up over 20% of the student body. Any plan that fails to account for our demographic’s hardships at this time should not be called a university-wide plan, as it effectively bans us from benefiting from the same services as domestic students. In addition, the University’s outlined plan also excludes domestic students from the states of Alaska and Hawai’i, as well as those whose permanent address(es) are in the U.S. Unincorporated Territories. This blatant discrimination is unjustified and comes at a time where thousands of Terriers across the globe have fought, completely on their own, to complete the semester in extenuating circumstances amid rising xenophobia and extreme health concerns. We are calling upon university officials to do what is right and offer more comprehensive measures on the handling and shipping of personal effects left in residences for international and non-continental U.S. residents (BU Housing), as well as increased support and information to students stranded across the globe (BU ISSO). International students pay full tuition, if not more non-tuition costs to be able to attend Boston University, and should be entitled to access the same resources and services as domestic students. The same goes for students who live outside of the continental United States, such as in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

On March 7th, the Office of the Provost announced in an email that students returning from what were CDC Advisory levels 2 and 3 countries (Japan, China, South Korea, Italy, Iran) were to self-quarantine in the United States and were not to return to the BU campuses. This email was sent to students at 5:23pm on a Saturday; in addition to being well outside of the business week, this was after the start date of the Spring Break, listed as 03/07/2020-03/15/2020 on the academic calendar. Large portions of the student body chose to leave on Thursday or Friday, meaning many had already left for the break. Furthermore, because a large part of the international students traveling abroad for spring break did so with the intention of returning home to CDC advisory nations, many would not have been able to meaningfully quarantine seeing as their only permanent address was abroad and expecting each international student to pay for two weeks of isolation in a hotel in the United States out of pocket would be unrealistic. On March 15th, strict travel restrictions were implemented for students from everywhere outside of the continental United States; many of us were left with limited options, most commonly, buying an immediate overpriced one-way ticket to the United States or staying home to follow online classes with a six to twelve-hour time difference. Yet again, we received absolutely no guidance and support. BU also announced that classes would be online until April 13. We understand that events unfolded fast and public health guidelines changed quickly, yet avoiding to communicate the possibility of this worst-case scenario created the very situation where many international students had to leave the country and return elsewhere without most of their belongings. In some students’ cases, Boston University and the dorms we inhabit on campus are our primary, if not only permanent residence in life; most of our belongings are with us on campus, from clothing, medicine, academic/professional resources, and other personal effects, and these personal effects may very well be indispensable necessities in our day-to-day lives. Boston University has yet to admit responsibility for its late notification to students on the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, forcing international students to incur damages and financial costs which could have been easily avoided had BU notified international students of the procedure only a few days in advance. The disparity in BU’s treatment of domestic students and international students during these trying times is seen as indicative of larger issues in the BU community regardless of the pandemic at hand.

In regard to BU’s recent update on personal effects still in students’ Spring semester residences, many of the international students in the BU community do not have friends or family in the United States to ship their belongings to, and even if they did, the expectation that students go without the majority of their personal effects for an undetermined amount of time, be it clothing, medical necessities, academic resources or other items is one which could have been easily avoided with timely response by the University. It is highly likely that international students will not be allowed in the United States anytime soon given strict travel restrictions related to COVID-19. Therefore, we will not be able to either come to our proxy’s home or to campus to retrieve our belongings. This means that we should have to either handle shipping costs ourselves or buy an entire’s room worth of clothes and belongings at home. Many simply do not have these kinds of financial resources; our families are also affected by the economic crisis and cannot afford to pay extreme shipping costs, on top of the mandatory fees and other expenses which are not liable for refund. In the most recent update to the plan, BU has added that “for international students, the University will pack and ship personal property to the US address of a family or friend, at no cost to the student, with exceptions made for extraordinary expenses.” Though this provides a vague benchmark which will dictate how an individual student’s personal effects will be handled, the wording allows for arbitrary interpretation which could prove unfavorable to some groups of students. Though there is no denying that shipping personal effects for thousands, if not tens of thousands of students is costly and would impact the institution’s financial ability greatly, to charge international students for shipping (where they won’t even have access to their personal effects for months) when the University’s late response and notification to the international student community are to blame in the first place is shamelessly insulting. We ask that BU provides the international student community and non-continental U.S. domestic student community equivalent treatment and support it has provided traditional domestic students. Though shipping at no cost to the student would be ideal, this could prove unpragmatic; giving students credit for international shipping could be considered more feasible. In any case, international students must be afforded access to their personal belongings just as domestic students have been.

We suggest that the ISSO develops an outreach initiative to communicate smoothly with students and provide resources appropriate to current challenges international students face. We understand that the ISSO may not have information about future travel restrictions, but a simple statement addressing the current situation and expressing empathy would make a significant difference. 

We would like to take this time to express our understanding that this situation is unprecedented, and to empathize with the BU administration, who has had to make some overwhelmingly difficult decisions. However, returning students feel abandoned and anxious at the thought of so many hurdles standing in the way of their degree; many are debating taking a leave of absence from school; some will simply be unable to afford or continue their studies. International students boost the university’s financial resources and global image. It is in Boston University’s interest to offer help and consideration to encourage high school students to apply and current students to stay on track to graduate. If BU’s administration seeks to see continued interest and commitment from international students, it must do more to support members of its community around the globe, and display through their actions that they do not, in fact, consider international students as less of a priority than their domestic counterparts.

Education is the great unifier of mankind; applied correctly, it becomes influential in bridging the gap between individuals, cultures, ideologies and communities to celebrate the intricacies of human society. Many of us chose Boston University, and the Boston area to challenge our abilities, better ourselves, and to honor and cherish our diversity; we have committed countless hours and opportunities to benefit from our time in BU, away from home, family, friends, and loved ones. Our actions demonstrate that our dedication to BU stands second to none; we simply ask for reciprocation and equitable treatment.