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An internationally diverse student body is vital to Virginia Tech, the school’s president said Wednesday in response to e-mails and blogs disparaging Asians that surfaced after a Chinese student was accused of decapitating a classmate.

The killing last month was the first since Seung-Hui Cho, a Korean student, killed 32 people in a mass shooting in 2007 and revived memories of the tragedy.

Some of the comments from parents, alumni and members of the public questioned whether the university should allow international students to attend the school. Others supported the university’s international community.

President Charles Steger said in an open letter that the school was enriched by its diversity and that overall there were few reports of international students getting into trouble.

“Virginia Tech is an open and accepting community including many races, ethnicities, and cultures from around the world,” Steger wrote in the letter.

Steger said there was no evidence that the decapitation of Xin Yang, 22, in a campus coffee shop Jan. 21 had anything to do with her ethnicity, Steger said. Both Yang and suspect Haiyang Zhu, who is charged with first-degree murder, are from China.

The school has more than 2,100 students from 72 foreign countries among its full-time enrollment of 30,000.

University spokesman Larry Hincker said school officials have received several dozen letters as well as e-mails and calls attacking foreigners. Hincker called the comments “xenophobic barbs.”

The head of a support service for the school’s international community said the comments on blogs began the night of the recent slaying. They ranged from “being very supportive to being very irrational,” said Kim Beisecker, director of the Cranwell International Center on campus.

Beisecker said there hasn’t been any immediate reaction to Steger’s letter or the comments from the Chinese community.

One Chinese student, Yan Ni, said the campus atmosphere had not changed since the killing.

“I didn’t feel any difference,” the student said in an e-mail.

Steger said the school’s judicial system has had a low number of offenses by international students. He also said national statistics show Asians are 10 times less likely than whites to commit homicide in the United States.

Steger said the recent killing revived memories of the mass killing in April 2007 when Cho shot 32 people to death in a dormitory and classroom building before taking his own life.

“Many, we are sure, are wondering ‘Why us?'” Steger said.

The president noted that Virginia Tech’s campus had never been the scene of a student killing until those slayings.

“These events are troubling when seen against the backdrop of the normally serene college environment,” he said.

Zhu, 25, a doctoral student who came to Virginia Tech last August, is being held without bond pending a preliminary court hearing March 5. His lawyer, Stephanie Cox, has not returned telephone calls seeking comment and a spokeswoman at her office said Wednesday she was unavailable.

Yang was pursuing a master’s degree in accounting and had arrived on campus less than two weeks before she was slain. A university official said she and Zhu apparently had met only recently, and he had been helping her adjust to campus life.

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