Libyan students attend meeting to air concerns over political turmoil

They worry about family, friends and their education

February 28, 2011

As political and military turmoil continues to grip Libya, more than 100 students from that country attended a meeting Monday to air concerns over how the unrest might affect their education.

“We want to show our support for you in a very tangible way,” said David Clubb, director of International Student and Scholar Services for the University of Colorado Denver’s Office of International Affairs. “We recognize that you may be feeling powerless here as events unfold in Libya and you also have the burden of maintaining your studies. So how can we help you? What do you need from us?”

Clubb and other university officials urged the Libyan students in the audience not to return home at this dangerous time and to maintain a full-time student status so they don’t run afoul of immigration laws.

CU Denver has 67 Libyan students with others attending the meeting from Spring International Language Center. Most are graduate students on scholarships paid by their government. Now, with the future of that government in question, there is widespread concern about continued funding.

Assistant Vice Chancellor for International Affairs, Carolyn North, said funding seems secure through May.

“What happens after that is uncertain,” she said. “We did notify all of the deans who have Libyan students and they have been very supportive.”

North told the deans that the students would need “extra support and understanding at this time.”

The Libyans seated around the tables Monday reported having difficulty focusing on their studies as they watched their nation torn apart by violent confrontations between supporters and opponents of Col. Moammar Kadafi.

“I have family in Tripoli and I am watching the news all of the time,” said a computer science student. “It is very hard to concentrate on anything else.”

For the most part, they didn’t openly take sides for or against Kadafi at the meeting.

Those in the audience hailed from Tripoli, Benghazi, Misurata and towns in southern Libya.

“I can only imagine how heavy your hearts are and where your thoughts must be as you worry about family and friends in Libya,” said Ruth Possehl, clinical supervisor and psychotherapist at the CU Denver Counseling Center. “We offer you a confidential place where you can talk about your feelings and your stress. We offer 10 sessions for free if you are a CU Denver student. We also see couples and families.”

Dan Howard, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, urged anyone having problems with course work or maintaining a full-time status to talk to their professors.

“If you feel the professor is not being responsive go to the department chair,” Howard said. “We will do everything we can to make it work for you. We hope there is a swift resolution to this crisis and that of all your families are safe.”