September 23, 2001 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

When classes started at Eastern Oregon University this morning, there were vacant desks in some classes.

Some of the international students couldnt get here, and there were some with some reluctance to come, Tim Seydel, assistant vice president for university advancement, said Friday.

Seydel said that before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Eastern had been expecting about 90 international students.

By Friday, Seydels figures indicated that only about half would be starting classes Monday, for a number of reasons.

It wasnt clear how many of the international students and Eastern is host to students from South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands would be delayed in arriving in La Grande, how many would postpone their enrollment until winter quarter and how many were simply withdrawing.

EOU President Phil Creighton has been very clear at the opening sessions and orientation that the university wont tolerate any harassment, segregation or threats aimed at international students or those with different religious beliefs, Seydel said.

EOUs location in rural Eastern Oregon has actually worked to its benefit in easing some fears, Seydel added. As new students and their parents were introduced to Eastern last week, Seydel said there were very few questions from parents about security at the campus.

More often, Seydel has heard that a few questions have been brought up about the feasibility of students from other countries getting home should there be military action following the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

The situation at Eastern seems to be proving itself as the first week of returning students and the first weekend of the school year passed without incident for the La Grande Police Department. No reports of racial or ethnic problems were reported, and while two reports of graffiti were reported at city parks last week, nei- ther seemed to be harassing in nature.

Terral Schut, Easterns adviser for international students, reported last week that 10 new international students, coming to this country for the first time, had decided not to come at this time.

Those students, she said, were from, among other countries, China, Nepal, Bulgaria, Japan, Kenya and India.