Tri Valley University Fiasco: Humiliation or a Lesson Learnt?

Posted on February 10, 2011

By Ipshita Mitra:

With radio collars coupled around their ankles, the fate of around 1,555 students of Trident Valley University, and 90% of them from India, predominantly Andhra Pradesh has been imprisoned within the walls of uncertainty, oblivion, deportation, academic loss and above all humiliation. Though the US authorities claim that radio monitors do not necessarily imply guilt or suspicion of criminal activity, the use of trackers have been strongly condemned as “unwarranted” by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and the act has consequently triggered a wave of anger through the Indian community in the US and India respectively.

In a web of juxtaposition, while the US immigration authorities consider the act of radio tagging as a procedural form of surveillance, India however has failed to situate the same within the mechanical quarters of immigration formality. The emotional component of India that multiplies exponentially in episodes of crisis like these often distances it from a rational perspective of the incident. True, that the students are undergoing a harrowing experience, but to analyse their plight only within the restricted quarters of affection, emotions and sensitivity often runs the danger of neglecting it from the rational and professional spectrum of solutions. The point is not about the ethical validity of the radio monitors that the students are being subjected to but to worry about the impending foreclosure of the academic security and opportunity of the victims.

The Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton, a suburb in San Francisco Bay Area, was raided and charged with fraudulence, misuse of visa permits and indulgence in money laundering among other criminal activities. Investigations by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department (ICE) found that while students were admitted to various residential and on-line courses of the university and on paper lived in California, but in reality they “illegally” worked in various parts of the country as far as Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

An all-party meeting in Andhra Pradesh demanded that the State Government bring pressure on the Centre to address issues related to America’s Tri-Valley University, which has duped Indian students, and send an AP Minister to the US to deal with the matter. The political parties said all the students be given admission in other universities and their harassment should stop immediately. The US Department of State has promised to cooperate extensively with the Indian government to identify and shut down visa fraud rings and encourage the Indian government to further support local police forces in investigation procedure.

The US government also stressed that it welcomed all legitimate students wishing to study in the United States, while encouraging prospective students to protect themselves from predatory visa fraud rings and deceptive document vendors.

The duped students are legitimate recipients of sympathy but at the same time worthy of censure too. Students point out that they believed this was a bona fide and legitimate university as it was registered with the official Student and Exchange Visitor Information System database. All because the university offered them “flexibility” in terms of attendance and gave them “work permits” in the name of “study visas” in addition to low fee structure, the students were willingly lured into the web of lies. The students never complained about the university run from a single room with just “13 laptops and five desktops” for over 1500 engineering students on its rolls!

In an age of competition where ostensibly promising and beguiling universities are pervading the circumference of the world, students in their bid to register a US visa stamped on passports are falling prey to false temptations of universities like the Tri Valley. It is important for students to engage in an extensive research of the credentials of foreign universities before enrollment so that incidents of faux pas like the above do not hamper their career growth. An analysis of the Tri Valley Website that is full of grammatical errors and amusing descriptions of privileges would have helped students detect the visible flaws but unfortunately fantasy reigned supreme over pragmatism and they were driven into the sham.

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