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Professor Ghuman continues the battle to come home

Stephan Babuljak for Mills College

Mills music professor Dr. Nalini Ghuman has yet to be allowed back in the country, but members of the Mills community still hope for her return.

According to a Sept. 17 article from the New York Times, armed immigration officers at San Francisco airport defaced her passport and cancelled her visa on Aug. 8, 2006. Without explanation, she was forced to leave the country and go back to the United Kingdom, where she had been on a research trip.

Since then, Dr. Ghuman said that she has worked with various U.S. legislators and organizations, including the Mills administration, to find out why she was denied entrance into the U.S. and to urge the Department of State to process her visa application.

In spring 2007, Dr. Ghuman taught a seminar on French musical culture circa 1890-1940 via video-conference link from the University of Wales. Even though Dr. Ghuman could not teach this semester, she is listed as the instructor for “Classic and Romantic Music” and “Seminar in Music Literature and Criticism” in the Mills spring 2008 course schedule.

The Office of the Provost, which creates the course schedules, released a statement explaining why Dr. Ghuman’s name was listed. “It is our hope that she will be able to return to the United States and resume her teaching at Mills. In the event [that] this does not happen by the start of the spring semester, her courses will be taught by other instructors,” the statement read.

Dr. Ghuman is not sure if she will be back before Mills reopens in the spring.”It will be deeply unjust if the Department of State does not complete what the US Embassy has described as ‘the final stage’ of reviewing my visa application in time for me to resume my teaching in January,” she said.

The U.S. Embassy in London interviewed Dr. Ghuman on Nov. 7. Though she still does not know why she was denied entry to the U.S. and though her visa’s status is still pending, Dr. Ghuman said that she now has hope.

“This is the first time there has been any human contact and a genuine interest in resolving this tragic situation,” Dr. Ghuman said in her letter to The Campanil.

“Perhaps, after sixteen months of review, the State Department can finally decide whether I, a musicologist and musician, can return to my home and job in the U.S.A.,” she added.

David Bernstein, the head of Mills’ music department, said that he wrote a letter to the Embassy before they interviewed Ghuman. He added that President Janet Holmgren and the Office of the Provost also wrote letters pleading Dr. Ghuman’s case to the Embassy and to the state department in Washington.

“Dr Ghuman’s plight [has] received worldwide attention from average citizens, from members of the academic community and from media outlets across the globe,” one Oct. 31 letter read. “We strongly urge that a just resolution of this situation be expedited.”

The entire Mills faculty signed a letter to Dr. Ghuman on Oct.15 in order to express “support for her during this very difficult period,” according to Bernstein.

“We are shocked by the way you have been treated, and deeply saddened by the personal and professional losses inflicted upon you,” the letter read. “Please know that we stand in sympathy and solidarity with you.”

“We miss your lively presence on campus, and bitterly regret the loss of your unique and exceptional contributions to the life of the College. All of us hope for a rapid and just end to your ordeal, and that you will soon be among us again,” it also read.

Dr. Ghuman said that she appreciates all that the Mills community has done to help her.”I am tremendously grateful to be part of such a caring community and am deeply moved by the strong advocacy of the administration throughout my ordeal,” she said.

She added that she spent the past sixteen months as a “proud representative of Mills College,” giving guest lectures, attending conferences, presenting broadcasts for British Broadcast Corporation and writing papers. She also said that she is working on new piano repertoire and her book manuscript.

Though she cannot currently enter the country, Dr. Ghuman traveled to Canada for the American Musicological Society’s annual conference. Held in Quebec City, the program ran from Nov. 1 – 4.

Dr. Ghuman said that AMS President Charles Atkinson, Executive Director Robert Judd and other AMS members received her with warmth: “It was revitalizing to feel part of the academic music community on the other side of the Atlantic again.”

The AMS has dedicated a Web page to Ghuman’s cause and provide updates on her situation. Anyone interested can find the information at