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Friday, July 10, 2020

Supporting our international students

This week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made changes around regulations regarding international students taking classes remotely or online. These changes would have significant deleterious effects on our students and our mission. 

As background: Pre-COVID, an international student in the United States could only take three credits of online coursework while the remainder had to be in person. During spring and summer, due to the situation created by the pandemic, a change in the regulations permitted all course work to be completed remotely while the student could remain in the country. The new policy announced for fall requires students at institutions like the U that are following a hybrid model (some in-person instruction, some remote) to have at least one course with some in-person content. The class itself could be a hybrid class. Students who do not receive some in-person instruction would be subject to removal from the country and, for new and continuing students currently outside of the country, an inability to enter the country.

The policy change is, at best, misguided and wrongheaded. It is hurtful and needlessly disruptive to our international students and their families to make these changes with the fall semester just a short time away. And it is adverse to the goal of American higher education to attract, welcome, and support the brightest minds in the world to the United States and to serve as engines of opportunity. In addition to the benefit for the individual student, attracting and welcoming international students advances the education of our domestic students and enhances our communities in numerous ways. 

The sudden policy change created turmoil for students, families, and institutions. What’s particularly offensive is that students themselves have very little control over whether they will be able to take a class in person. With the pandemic still afoot and social distancing and other requirements still in place when the fall semester starts, institutions across the country will have fewer opportunities for students to take classes in person. And some, for health concerns, might need or prefer to avoid in-person classes temporarily while accessing other aspects of the college experience in person. Penalizing students at the last minute for situations they have little to no control over, or to push institutions in a certain direction, is wrong. 

Our international students are part of who we are and they earned their way here. CLA is home to about 30 percent of the University’s international students and has the second-highest number of international students on campus. I fully support the University’s decision to file an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit initiated by MIT and Harvard University to fight the new regulation. In the meantime, we along with our colleagues across the University will be pursuing every avenue we can to provide the ability for international students to meet the requirements of the new rule.