Yesterday saw something unprecedented happen. Carl Paladino apologized.
As originally reported in the Olean paper, Paladino appeared at something of a failure of a tea party rally over the weekend, and said hateful and ignorant things about Asian students at UB.
On Monday, Paladino said the point he wanted to make at the rally is that out-of-state students – whether foreign-born or not – are taking advantage of New York’s heavily subsidized university system at the cost of taxpayers. Since the state – via taxpayers – heavily contributes to its university system, the tuition for out-of-state residents is far lower than the actual cost to educate them, Paladino says.
“I don’t think that’s fair to taxpayers,” Paladino said Monday. “Even nonresident tuition is highly subsidized tuition. I was pointing out deeper problems that are not otherwise being expressed.”
UB boasts — BOASTS - about 5,000 international students. 99.2% of them attend UB on an F-1 student visa. While in-state students pay a tuition of just over $6,000 per year, international students pay close to $20,000 to attend UB. Before obtaining an F-1 visa, the student must have already applied - and been accepted — to a school that is certified under the Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). In order to obtain an F-1 visa, the applicant must prove that he does not intend to abandon his foreign residency. As such, it is impossible for the holder of an F-1 visa to claim domicile in New York State in order to reap the benefits of a subsidized in-state SUNY tuition.
Paladino said he does not take issue with the fact that foreign students attend UB, but thinks their education should not be subsidized by taxpayers. He said he selected Asians as an example of out-of-state students because it is easy to assume they are not from the area, an assumption for which he apologized.
“I apologize to all Asians for the coarseness of my remark and selecting them as my example,” he said. “That wasn’t the point I was trying to make.”
“Easy to assume they are not from the area” — here’s a case of an apology being pretty much as bad as the original insult. The International Institute’s Eva Hassett explains, “Immigrants, refugees, international students, foreign born professionals are are critical to the region’s economic growth. International students in particular are more likely than native born students to study in STEM fields, which relate highly to making the investments in the BNMC, Solar City, etc turn into jobs. Lots of cities get this. What they also get is that communities need to be ‘welcoming’ to the foreign born, or none of their other strategies work. Being inclusive and tolerant is a great base for an economic development strategy. Not to mention making it a nicer place to live.”
Paladino isn’t the disease, but merely a symptom of longstanding, ingrained xenophobia and ignorant animus plaguing western New York. Look no further than the absolutely disgusting, desperate clinging to a racist team name going on in Lancaster. Imagine people willing to turn their backs on the student who designed the new Lancaster mascot, or yelling “Heil Hitler” at the school superintendent. Lancaster isn’t the disease — it’s also a symptom.
We seem to have this mentality that it’s not our own fault that the region doesn’t — or we individually don’t — advance. Don’t blame the easily identifiable Asians or brown people or black people, western New York. “Stop being a bigot” may just be the key to regional and personal advancement.