Ukrainian students seek additional support, sensitivity from College community in wake of Russian invasion

Undergraduate students from Ukraine who are currently on campus said they have been in communication with various College resources like their undergraduate deans, but resources like the Student Wellness Center have been less helpful.

by Angus Yip | 3/8/22 5:15am

by Jason Romero / The Dartmouth

Though the College administration has condemned Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine and offered support for affected students, students from Ukraine said they believe the campus community could do more to support them.

In an email sent to campus on March 1, College President Phil Hanlon criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “brazen aggression” and an “unprovoked assault.” On March 7, interim Dean of the College Scott Brown also sent an email to campus and wrote that “this is an unsettling time … particularly for members of our community directly affected by this war,” adding that students could turn to their undergraduate deans for support.

The College has reached out to individual Ukrainian students to offer support and resources, and has been referring them to the College chaplain, the Counseling Center, the Student Wellness Center, housing support, financial aid services and travel and visa assistance, according to an emailed statement from College spokesperson Diana Lawrence.

According to Marta Hulievska ’25, Yevheniia Dubrova ’24 and Nathan Syvash ’25, who are from Ukraine, there are five total Ukrainian undergraduates at Dartmouth. Apart from Hulievska, Dubrova and Syvash, who are on campus now, one is currently on an off-campus program in Los Angeles and one is in Ukraine.

“When your family’s trying to evacuate somewhere and you’re constantly checking the news, you’re not going to do yoga over this.”

Hulievska noted that representatives from the Tucker Center and Dick’s House have reached out to her, and Hulievska and Dubrova said that they have been in communication with the Office of Visa and Immigration Services about their student visa status. However, Hulievska, Dubrova and Syvash all said that they have not heard from the Student Wellness Center, Office of Residential Life or the Financial Aid Office. 

The Financial Aid Office, the Tucker Center, the Office of Visa and Immigration Services and Dick’s House could not be reached for comment by press time.

Hulievska added that she believes many of the resources offered by the College are not appropriate for their needs.

“Counselors in Dick’s House are not trained to actually work with war victims or refugees … so we feel critical [of the effectiveness of counseling],” Hulievska said.

SWC director Caitlin Barthelmes wrote in an emailed statement that undergraduate deans have directly reached out to students from Ukraine to let them know of available resources, including the SWC. Services include individual wellness check-ins with a trained listener, mindfulness opportunities and the physical space in Robinson Hall’s third floor, she wrote. 

Hulievska said that resources from the SWC are “not very helpful.” 

“When your family’s trying to evacuate somewhere and you’re constantly checking the news, you’re not going to do yoga over this,” she said.

Hulievska also expressed hopes that the Financial Aid Office will offer more financial assistance for Ukrainian students. She said that even after financial aid, they are still required to pay for half of the College’s health insurance premium, creating a financial strain. The cost of the Dartmouth Student Group Health Plan for the 2021-22 academic year is $4,163, according to the College’s Dartmouth Student Group Health Plan page.

“With regard to most things that the administration has done so far, it was in response to something started by us or faculty members,” Hulievska said, adding that “[she wishes] they would be more proactive.”

Beyond the resources mentioned by Lawrence, Hulievska and Dubrova said that faculty have provided substantial support.

“My undergraduate dean was very supportive, and I’m taking four classes this term, which is obviously not particularly pleasant in this situation, but all of my professors have been very accommodating,” Dubrova said.

Hulievska added that her undergraduate dean communicated with her professors on her behalf, and that she was given a special exception to obtain Incomplete grades for all three courses this term.

In addition, Hulievska said that the Council on Student Organizations conducted an emergency hearing to recognize the Ukrainian Student Association as an official student organization, which she noted will allow the group to organize more events.

She added that in the past two weeks, the association has organized a protest on the Green, a vigil with locals from Hanover and Lebanon, panels with the history and government departments, a discussion with the Dartmouth Political Union and a fundraising event.

Both Hulievska and Dubrova said that they believe the campus community has, on several occasions, expressed insensitive sentiments about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Dubrova referred to a satirical piece published by The Dartmouth Review last week — “Hanlon on Ukraine: Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste” — that depicted the College purchasing apartment blocks in Donetsk as a potential solution to the College’s housing shortage. Dubrova noted that her family is from Donetsk.

“The article was very offensive to me … my hometown has been occupied for eight years, and in several points in the article, they implied that it’s a Russian territory,” she said.

The Dartmouth Review editor-in-chief Rachel Gambee ’21 wrote in an emailed statement that the piece was written prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as part of The Dartmouth Review’s annual satire issue. She added that distribution of the issue had been set back to “external publishing delays,” and that the piece was written without “any knowledge of when, or even if, an invasion would occur in Ukraine.”

“We sincerely wish that our hopes at the time — that an invasion of Ukraine and the pursuant war and humanitarian crisis could be averted — had come to pass,” Gambee wrote. “The wrongful assault on a free nation we have all witnessed Russia carry out in Ukraine over the past ten days has been both shocking and tragic.” 

In addition, the three Ukrainian students expressed disapproval of comments made by government professor Joseph Bafumi in a piece published by The Dartmouth last Thursday on the likely cancellation of the summer 2022 Russia Foreign Study Program. In the article, Bafumi said that one potential reason for the cancellation of the College’s Russia study abroad program is safety concerns, adding that there could be “retaliatory bombing or something by Ukrainian nationalists” in Moscow. Bafumi has since retracted his comment, noting that he had no evidence, and The Dartmouth appended a correction to the article explaining the retraction. 

“When [others] are spreading the notion that Ukrainians are oppressive … that’s ridiculous, because we are the oppressed ones,” Syvash said. “This is a question of power dynamics, and when you’re saying that Ukrainians could oppress Russians, you’re just being highly unintelligent, ridiculous and ignorant.”

In an emailed statement, Bafumi wrote that he agrees that the Russian government is the “clear aggressor in this conflict,” and that Russia’s aggression is “deeply angering” to many people, including himself. 

“I wish I had not tried to communicate that sentiment in the context of discussing our students’ safety in Moscow, as it may have sounded like Ukrainians are a threat to our students,” Bafumi wrote. “They are not. The biggest threat in the world right now is Putin and his regime.” 

Referring to a panel the Ukrainian Student Association organized with the history department, Hulievska also said that most questions raised were focused on Russia’s perspective.

“We’re here to give you our first-hand opinions as native Ukrainians, and for [students] to ask about Russia feels like [they] don’t care about Ukraine, and this war is just another occasion to talk about Russia more,” she said.

Hulievska said she hopes that the College administration and student organizations will publish statements that criticize Russia’s actions or repost the Ukrainian Student Association’s posts about the invasion. She added that she also hopes that future student events and discussions will focus on discussing the Ukrainian perspective rather than the Russian one.

Hulievska added that individual students can contribute to Ukraine’s fight against Russia by donating to military and humanitarian organizations.

“This is imperialism and colonialism, and everyone who condemns imperialism and colonialism has to stand with Ukraine,” she said.