Close to 50 students at Idaho State University who hail from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have become victims of vandalism and burglary in addition to unverified incidents of physical abuse.
The incidents began last summer when 17 vehicles, some of which belonged to international students, were vandalized. The issues have continued throughout the year. More recently, DVDs containing hate messages have been left on the windshields of cars parked on the campus.
The crimes turned violent this week when a Middle Eastern man was stabbed. Police say that the man was walking in an alley when two other men came up to him and assaulted him. The suspects allegedly shouted derogatory Middle Eastern comments at the victim while attacking him. It is unknown whether the man is an ISU student.
Police added that they do not have any leads to date as to who may have committed the crimes in question. The FBI has been notified of the situation and is currently conducting an investigation to determine whether they could have been hate crimes.
The news reached students in the form of an email from university president Arthur C. Vailas, who said that students were considered leaving the school as a result of the incidents, writes Stephanie Saul for The New York Times.
Meanwhile, Middle Eastern students who asked to remain anonymous said they were scared and feared for their safety.
“People just don’t feel safe, and I don’t feel safe too,” one student said.
He went on to say, “What’s the email going to do to us? Is it going to keep us safe? Is it going to stop anyone from keep doing whatever their doing? No!”
U.S. Attorney Wendy Olsen visited the campus last week in an effort to encourage students to pull together. She was on campus to meet with foreign students in order to discuss hate crimes, but said the meeting had been previously arranged.
“I hope that you will stand with each other most importantly and not only build up a resistance to intolerance and acts of backlash against anyone in our community but lSU stand with your law enforcement because we are here to help you make this a safe community,” said Olson.
At the same time, the university is seeking to boost enrollment of international students, especially those from the Middle East. Those students currently represent 10% of the total school population, reports Rob Wile for Fusion.
Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad recently announced that he had already spoken with a Saudi official in order to ensure students did not leave as a result of the crimes, with additional plans to meet with Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian officials early next week. News reports show that the two countries have already decided not to send any more students to the school.
The Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission in Washington, which hands out government college scholarships to Saudi students, said students at the school could leave Idaho State before the semester ends and transfer to another university in the fall.