The University of Iowa

Assistant dean of International Programs reflects on 9/11

September 9th, 2011

See more 9/11 reflections from members of the University community in the fyi article

Scott King, assistant dean of International Programs and director of the International Student & Scholar Services

“When I think of all the memories from that day, tears actually come to my eyes—the emotions of that day and the days afterward are hard to forget. So many experiences in a short time. I think about how we were worried in Norfolk, where I was working at the time at Old Dominion University, that we would be attacked after the Pentagon, as the Norfolk area is the largest area of military bases on the East Coast. I remember frantically looking for the business card of a former student who had just visited me and was working for an international accounting firm in NYC, as his employer was just the type of employer in the World Trade Center, but, thankfully, he wasn’t located there.

“I can still see Mehdi, the president of our Muslim Student Association, sitting in my office with tears running down his cheeks after realizing that his deeply held faith had been so corrupted—and then the next day working with him when the mosque on campus had every window broken. And then two days after the attacks, I had a visit from six federal agencies checking out information on a student whose identity had been stolen by Mohamed Atta.

“Sadly, so much misinformation resulted in targeting international students as potential terrorists. As the events of 9/11 unfolded, I had no idea how this would impact my professional life. Although 18 of the 19 hijackers entered the U.S. as tourists, there was a popular impression that they had all used student visas—suddenly international students, and the schools that enrolled them, were seen as security threats.

“A few years after the immediate clampdown on all student visas, which resulted in an impression that the U.S. was unwelcoming, balance did return to the process. But even now we continue to fight the impression that students can’t get visas to come to the United States. There are more monitoring and reporting requirements; that also has become more reasonable over time. But a lot of our naïve views about international students being above political backlash ended that day.”