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DSU, Chinese students hit language barrier: Five are asked to leave campus

Five Chinese students have been asked to leave Dickinson State University after test results showed their communication skills were inadequate, officials said Wednesday.

"This is not the students' fault," DSU President D.C. Coston said. "This is the fault of a bunch of adults, probably."

Faculty and staff members were concerned with the students' English skills when they arrived on campus earlier this month, he said.

According to DSU policy, students who speak English as a second language must complete a Test of English as a Foreign Language or International English Language Testing System, said Marie Moe, DSU director of university relations.

The students completed TOEFL exams and were allowed to preview classes they intended to enroll in, but were not allowed to register until test results arrived. The results were in Wednesday and showed scores lower than acceptable, Coston said.

The company that placed the five students at DSU is called HECATE Center of Cultural Communication, Moe said.

"They did not abide by what they had agreed to do and they have done a great disservice to their fellow citizens," Coston said.

Ronnie Walker, DSU director of multicultural affairs, and her staff explained the situation to the students with the help of an interpreter.

"They're understandably emotional about it," Walker said. "It's a tough decision to come to the United States to study and they've made commitments to that. Understandably, they're upset by it, but they're coping."

Coston said the students are no longer eligible to maintain student immigration status.

"This is a regrettable action, but for the integrity of this institution and so on, it's one that we need to take," he said.

The students reside on campus and can either return home or transfer to an institution that offers a certified "English as a second language" course, Coston and Walker said.

"They will have time to make arrangements to travel or to transfer," Walker said.

The students had a portion of their tuition waived through a "Top-Up" program, Coston said.

"We will be refunding the deposits that they made and we will be absorbing the costs of the housing and the meals that they have consumed to this point," he said.

"Quite a number" of students have been placed at DSU through HECATE "over a period of several years," Coston said, but an exact number is unclear.

"We're going to keep digging until there's no more dirt," he said. "I don't know what all we're going to find, but our intent is to find all of it."

He is unsure if students who have attended DSU and left will be affected.

"I don't think there's a way to retrospectively test TOEFL," Moe said.

It is also unclear if laws have been broken.

"I know that we will be working very closely with legal counsel," Coston said.

Attempts to contact HECATE and North Dakota University System Chancellor William Goetz were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Random examples from the test

Introduction and interview

(This part of the test begins with the examiner introducing himself or herself and checking the candidate's identification. It then continues as an interview.) Let's talk about your home town or village.

-What kind of place is it?

-What's the most interesting part of your town/village?

-What kind of jobs do the people in your town/village do?

-Would you say it's a good place to live? (Why?)

General training writing sample task

You should spend about 20 minutes on this task. You live in a room in college which you share with another student. However, there are many problems with this arrangement and you find it very difficult to work. Write a letter to the accommodation officer at the college. In the letter,

-Describe the situation

-Explain your problems and why it is difficult to work

-Say what kind of accommodation you would prefer