After Stanford’s Bechtel International Center sent international students an email Monday warning against participating in protests that are not “peaceful and respectful,” some international students took issue with the email’s wording and raised concerns that the email could disincentivize students from protesting.
The email followed a Friday protest on campus against sexual violence, which was organized, in part, by an international student. The protest, where students made signs, participated in cheers and heard speeches from the organizers, did not become violent.
The Monday email, which was signed by “Bechtel International Center Staff,” said that staff were “aware that some international students may be deciding to participate in peaceful protests” and that “immigration regulations do not prohibit [them] from participating.”
However, the email “recommend that [international students] leave the area at the first sign of disruption or violence in any form,” as potential criminal charges can result in negative impacts on one’s immigration status.
Staff also wrote that “only when people become disrespectful or violent is there a risk of being arrested or charged with a legal offence.”
Sofia Scarlat ’24, an international student who helped organize the protest as one of the leaders of Sexual Violence Free Stanford, said she felt “slightly intimidated” by the communication given “the context in which the email was sent out.”
“I obviously understand that Stanford does not have control over immigration in the U.S. and the broader system of immigration status for international students,” Scarlat said. “But I think that more advocacy on their part for protecting students, in general, is just what we’ve been asking for.”
Scarlat also said she was concerned with some of the language used in the message. She said international students should be able to freely voice their “concerns and dissatisfaction with Stanford.”
Other international students shared Scarlat’s sentiments about the email.
“I was disgusted. I was definitely very emotional,” Muki Kozikoglu ’24 said about the email. “Getting the message from Bechtel was really a punch in the face because the individuals who do work at Bechtel may not have the same international background.”
Kozikoglu also voiced concerns about how Stanford will treat international students going forward: “I don’t care that they offended me with whatever they wrote. I care a lot more about what their policies are when it comes to this.”
“What this email said was that basically ‘we’re not on your side, and we’re not going to protect you if you do something against the government,’” Kozikoglu said.
Pat Harris, a University spokesperson for the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs, declined to comment on student criticisms of the email and directed The Daily to the email’s original text.
Other international students said they were less concerned. Anna Siamionava ’26 said, “I initially thought this was a recommendation to fully not participate in protests, but as it’s occurred, it’s just a recommendation to be careful during protests.”
Earlier this fall, Siamionava attended the protest against fossil fuel funding at the Doerr School of Sustainability’s opening ceremony. She said, “If there is something related to my interests, something that I think that I have to fight for, especially when it relates to my region, I want to participate.”