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ISU, Other Campuses Face Safety Questions After Chinese Scholar's Disappearance

Yingying Zhang
University of Illinois
Missing Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang.

The disappearance of a Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois is leading to some difficult conversations about safety on college campuses.

Yingying Zhang is presumed dead, and a University of Illinois graduate student is charged with her kidnapping. The case has rattled some international students on the U of I campus.

Illinois State University staff who work with international students are hearing concerns about safety as well, said Yimin Wang, associate director of ISU’s Office of International Studies and Programs. Last fall, ISU had around 33 students from China, according to the University.

“All international students and their parents know about the case,” Wang said Wednesday on The 21st, which airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on GLT.

The ISU is now hosting around 27 students from China, many of whom were making travel plans when the kidnapping happened, Wang said. Questions about campus safety are difficult to answer, she said.

Wang, who is from China herself, encourages students with safety concerns to compare Bloomington-Normal to their own hometowns. If it’s not safe to do it at home, don’t do it here, she said.

ISU recently ranked the No. 33 safest campus in the U.S. based on low overall crime rates on and off-campus, according to the National Council for Home Safety and Security.

“There are safety issues everywhere in the world,” Wang said. “That doesn’t mean you should be really nervous. That doesn’t mean your parents should be really nervous.”

ISU’s Office of International Studies and Programs does several things to help new international students feel safe and adjust to their new home. ISU staff are now picking up students from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport during the first half of August, so they can see a friendly face right away. There is also a two-day orientation program for new international students, Wang said.

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