Professor Waits at Border, Classes Continue
September 4, 2006 6:53 PM
SF State’s first Arabic language professor is stuck at the U.S./Canadian border indefinitely because of visa problems, which left his students in the dark about what will happen to their classes.
On June 20 Dr. Mohammad Salama, the school's first full-time Arabic language professor, traveled to the U.S. Embassy in Toronto to upgrade his visa status, where he was informed he could not re-enter the United States until a security clearance is granted by the U.S. Department of State.
This left two teacher’s assistants with little experience to teach Salama's Arabic language classes.
Salama says he planned on just a three-day trip to Toronto that has now turned into a more than 70-day ordeal with no end in sight. He says he misses his two children and his wife, U.S. citizens who live in Wisconsin. His family was planning to move with him to San Francisco.
“I already have my return ticket for the next day, so I asked inquisitively, ‘Could I still return to the U.S. on my original visa?’ to which she answered, ‘No, we have canceled all your previous visas to the U.S., so you can't go back,’” he said in a telephone interview from London, Ontario, Canada.
Without a qualified full-time Arabic instructor, more than 50 students were at risk of losing three to five units just weeks after the start of the semester.
Salama will teach his Arabic fiction literature courses, Abrabic 650 and 850, online.
But even with a substitute, some students are wary.
“We are all sort of in the dark,” said women’s studies graduate student Rebecca Prather, 29, as she left Friday’s class. “Supposedly they have a teacher for us, but we are off to a rough start.”
Prather said the government’s unwillingness to let Salama back in may be related to American racism.
“Additional processing usually takes a few weeks,” she said. Tischler did not specify if Salama is one of those 2.5 percent.
SF State College of Humanities Dean Paul Sherwin sent a letter to encourage the vice consul of the American Consulate General in Toronto to expedite a swift clearance for Salama.
“I’ve made calls, but I can’t influence this process. No one knows what’s going on. We are all very distressed that he’s not here,” Sherwin said.
Salama, has a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Wisconsin and has lived in the United States for seven years.
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