They came quietly. They asked politely and then accepted any refusals with apparent good grace. They got jobs. They enrolled in classes. They socialised but not with each other. There weren’t many of them. They weren’t concentrated in any one place. They didn’t appear to be of the same race or species or polity. Most of them didn’t speak the language of the place they were in when they arrived. They asked questions, they made friends and adopted the manners of the places in which they were. If they communicated with each other it was privately, via telephone or some technology of their own that filled the same niche. They didn’t explain why they were there and camouflaged as they were by the diplomats, military and technical liaisons and a few tour groups, no-one asked.
The University had acquired an alien student. Ahletuiegeh Lahni’s species sat somewhere between the batrachia and reptiles, as far as anyone could tell. Her, they’d decided the correct English pronoun was ‘her’ after research into the gender of ‘uyitreckh’ stated on her application form, careful avoidance of any faculty members who wanted to interview or examine her was disappointing. However, as the Research Ethics Committee pointed out, a student could not be compelled to be a subject in any research project.
Ali, as her classmates came to call her, usually sat up the back during lectures making copious notes in her native script. If called upon to contribute, she did so but otherwise remained quiet and observant. She occasionally sat in on other classes, usually classes attended by students from her own subjects. Like every other student she tried variety of extracurricular activities but only maintained a few, mainly those she shared with classmates.
None of this seemed odd to anyone, well hardly anyone, so when Larry Bergmont, the Art Faculty’s permanent student (it was unclear how he’d managed to be a fulltime undergraduate for over a decade and the Faculty considered suggestions he had tenure in bad taste), started watching her he was warned about stalking by several people.
Matters came to a head in Method in Anthropology, a class in which Bergmont was a student and which Ali had chosen to audit that day. The professor had reached the, “Any questions?” point when Bergmont put up his hand.
“Professor, in anthropology, what’s the professional etiquette when you realise that you are the subject of a study?”
“I don’t understand the context of the question, Larry.” Professor Arbuckle had been speaking on the subject of documenting cultural contamination.
“Perhaps Eenih Ahletuiegeh,” Bergamont turned to the visitor at the back of the room, “could give us her views?”
“Eenih?” Professor Arbuckle asked perplexedly as Ali gathered her notebooks and began to stand.
“Apparently it’s a sort of associate lecturer,” explained Bergmont over his shoulder, “at least, that’s what I understood from the précis of her second doctorate I found through the tech literature portal.”
“Second doctorate?” Professor Arbuckle’s repeat of the phrase was quite faint but his voice quickly returned to its normal volume as he went on, “Perhaps,” and he carefully followed Bergmont’s pronunciation, “Eenih Ahletuiegeh and I should consult the Ethics Faculty Sub-Committee. Immediately.”