In contrast to the raucous anti-American demonstrations held on Utah's campuses during the Iranian crisis in the late 1970s, Middle Eastern students today are keeping a low profile.
They're worried about their families back home. They're worried about their own future in their motherland. And some are worried about anti-Arab harassment or, worse, violence from Americans."(The Middle Eastern students) are very, very low-key," said Tammy Heiner, an international student specialist at Weber State University who helps counsel about two dozen students from the Middle East.
Though no Israelis or Iraqis are enrolled at WSU, there are seven Kuwaitis who are concerned about what's happening in their country.
"A lot of our students have not heard from their families since this all began," Heiner said. "They're worried about their families. It's hard for them to concentrate in class or to study."
At the University of Utah, which has the largest population of foreign students in Utah, some Middle Eastern students, particularly Kuwaitis, are trying to go home, said Bill Barnhart, director of the U.'s International Center.
"Family concerns have upset them to the point they were seeking financial help to return to Kuwait," Barnhart said. "We advised them not to, but two or three have tried and couldn't get across the border, so they went to Bahrain to stay with relatives."
As winter quarter began, eight Kuwaitis were enrolled at the U. Four of them were drafted into military duty by their government about a week before the allied invasion of Iraq.
The four were needed for their linguistics skills, Barnhart said, and are now in Saudi Arabia.
Only one Iraqi attends the U., but Barnhart hasn't seen her for several months.
There are, however, about a half dozen Iraqis who have completed their degrees but "for obvious reasons, are not anxious to go home," Barnhart said. Some holding graduate degrees have taken jobs in grocery stores to remain in the United States.
"The general sense I get from the Iraqis I've talked to is they are not typically in favor with their government to begin with," Barnhart said. The current government distrusts the educated classes, particularly those people who were educated in the Western Hemisphere.
"(Iraqi students) don't feel the government is representative of the people."
At Utah State University, International Student Services Director Afton Tew has also been busy trying to put several Middle Eastern students at ease.
"I just got off the phone with a Jordanian student and he is very concerned about his family," Tew said. "He wants to go home. I'm trying to encourage him to stay in school."
Any reports of harassment?
"I'm not aware of any," said Tew. "But we're talking about a situation that can change from minute to minute."
Weber State and the U. also reported no incidents of racially motivated harassment.
Just the same, Barnhart said, the students are being extremely careful in what they say. "They don't want to be openly critical of the war or openly in favor of it."
Tew said many people feel threatened by the presence of Middle Eastern students on the campus, a fear she believes is unwarranted.
"They in no way pose a threat to us. They've put a lot of time and money into their education and won't do anything to upset that."
GRAPHIC\ Middle eastern students in Utah
Country U of U Weber State Utah State
Kuwait 8* 7 1
Israel 6** 0 5**
Saudi Arabia 4 1 2
Iraq 1 0 5
Iran 54 7 17
Egypt 3 1 18
Jordan 26 9 5
*4 have been drafted into military duty
**May include Arabs from occupied territories