A community college in Texas offered an unusual justification for rejecting an applicant from Nigeria. “Unfortunately, Navarro College is not accepting international students from countries with confirmed Ebola cases,” reads a letter by the school’s director of international programs that was posted on Twitter (TWTR) earlier this week. “Although you may be disappointed, my personal wish is that you find fulfillment studying at another fine college.”
The odd case erupted into public view on Sunday when Idris Ayodeji Bello, a Nigerian-American living in Texas, posted an image on Twitter of a rejection letter he said had been sent to two applicants from Nigeria. Navarro College did not specify on Wednesday whether it had sent rejection letters citing an admissions policy related to Ebola. An e-mail from Dewayne Gragg, vice president of access and accountability at the school, addressed the situation in general terms. “Unfortunately,” he wrote, “some students received incorrect information regarding their applications to the institutions.” The statement apologized “for any misinformation” and emphasized a focus this year on recruiting students from China and Indonesia.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed on Wednesday that a second health worker had contracted Ebola at a hospital about 60 miles from Navarro College’s Corsicana campus, Nigeria has not seen an Ebola case in several weeks. The World Health Organization is days away from declaring that Nigeria’s Ebola outbreak is over.
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Issuing a blanket ban on foreign applicants from countries with confirmed Ebola cases is akin to “racism against Nigerians and discriminating against individuals based on ignorance and misinformation,” says Bello. He’s not the only one to think so: The school’s rejection letters have become the subject of much ridicule on Twitter.
Navarro College needs to educate itself on how not to act in an epidemic, says Bello, who has a master’s in global health science from Oxford University. “What if a school from New York or Boston started rejecting students from Texas? You don’t discriminate in epidemics—you inform, you educate, so people are more aware of what they should do,” he adds. “I hope other institutions learn from this.”
Meanwhile, at least one local college seized the opportunity to appeal to Nigerian applicants:
@idrisayobello We’re near Dallas & accepting applications from Nigeria & worldwide, but spring deadline is TODAY. http://t.co/HKRQwSsJ8Y
— North Lake College (@northlakenow) October 15, 2014