An unexpected loophole appeared: the university as a temporary refuge. In 2018, Arien Mack, then a professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research in New York, founded the New University in Exile Consortium, a group of nearly 60 universities from around the world that agreed to take in displaced scholars from countries where their students live. lives. they were in danger. The goal, Mack explained to me, was to create a sense of community for persecuted scholars so that their exile would not become “a second exile on campus itself.” After the Taliban returned to power, Mack was contacted by someone at a member university who had heard of Ahmad’s Afghan women and wanted to know if the consortium could help place them in schools. The situation of AUW women exposed a gap in the system: women were too old to be placed in public schools, but too young to be considered scholars or professors, the kind of figures the New University focused on. in Exile Consortium. . “This was the first time we got into the business, so to speak, of rescuing,” says Mack. “So, we expanded our mission.”
Not long after the women arrived at Fort McCoy, the consortium contacted two associate presidents of Brown University, Jay Rowan and Asabe Poloma: Could Brown take some of the women this fall? “We didn’t know much about Asian University for Women at the time,” Poloma, Brown’s associate chancellor for global engagement, told me, “but the philosophy behind the liberal arts curriculum really resonated with us.” Similar conversations were taking place elsewhere, with different schools interested in different skills. Cornell, for example, preferred students who could work in various labs there, both in the hard sciences and other disciplines, and “adjust to life in the US. International affairs, put it. The University of North Texas had a program specialized English training course for younger women who were still becoming fluent in English Brown was interested in students who demonstrated a strong academic record and intellectual curiosity Ahmad asked his three-person administrative staff at AUW to prepare portfolios for each of the women to include brief biographies and their transcripts.
Each time a school verbally agreed to admit one of the women, Charles Hallab, an attorney and founder of the Washington consulting firm Barrington Global, which provided pro bono help, worked on memorandums of understanding stating that the woman would be taken in as a student. degree. earning student for the duration of an undergraduate degree, or in some cases a graduate degree, a condition some of the schools would end up accepting. Some universities, such as Arizona State, signed on immediately; others, like Brown, were reluctant to commit to anything binding. “The priority was to make sure these girls had the best chance humanly possible to succeed,” Hallab told me. “At a minimum, the MOU created a moral obligation to engage with them.”
At Fort McCoy, Hashimi had heard rumors that she and her cohort would transfer to American universities, but she was skeptical that would happen. “I was worried that the schools wouldn’t trust Afghan girls,” she says. (Some of the women refused to continue their studies and chose instead to find work.) But in fact, 10 universities were interested in accepting them: Arizona State, Brown, Cornell, Delaware, DePaul, Georgia State, North Texas, Suffolk, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and West Virginia. Some of them offered immediate acceptance, while others required broader applications. In November, Hashimi, to her surprise, received an email from Brown asking her to write separate essays on her personal history, her academic interests, and her goals and dreams. She didn’t have a computer, so she wrote her essays on her cell phone. After that, she says, she checked her email “every second.”
Acceptances for AUW women came in December. Fourteen women ended up at Brown; nine at Cornell; 67 in the state of Arizona; 15 at the University of Delaware. All of them would be full scholarship holders, covered by donations raised by the universities; AUW estimated the total need to be $32 million. Each school had a different arrangement: At Arizona State University, women were invited to enroll for up to eight semesters; some who already had AUW credits were able to enter as juniors or seniors. The 10 DePaul students were invited to stay until they completed their college degrees, as long as they did not interrupt their studies and completed them in five years.
Other schools offered a more precarious arrangement: at Cornell, women were admitted as “visiting interns” during the school year; at Brown, all 14 women were considered “special non-degree students for the 2021-2022 academic year.” No one there was sure what would happen after May.