FILE PHOTO: Students and pedestrians walk through the Yard at Harvard University, after the school asked its students not to return to campus after Spring Break and said it would move to virtual instruction for graduate and undergraduate classes, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder -/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Today, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration in federal court over new rules announced by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program on Monday. The SVEP stated that students attending United States colleges operating fully online may not remain in the country and may face “the initiation of removal proceedings.”

MIT issued a press release stating, “The announcement disrupts our international students’ lives and jeopardizes their academic and research pursuits. ICE is unable to offer the most basic answers about how its policy will be interpreted or implemented.” On Monday, Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow referred to SVEP guidelines as a “blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem.”

Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli said Tuesday that the department’s provision is intended to “encourage schools to reopen.” He added, “We’re expanding the flexibility massively to a level never done before so that schools can use hybrid models.” In a White House transcript of Tuesday meetings regarding reopening American schools, HBCU adviser Johnny Taylor said, “Online education — the virtual education — while it’s wonderful, it’s not as good as in-person education in the higher education space.” He emphasized the need to reopen colleges so students “can get the best education and truly experience the American Dream.”

Over one million international students attended U.S. colleges during as of the 2018-2019 school year, according to the Institute for International Education. International students make up approximately 5.5% of the U.S. college population. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, 8% of universities are planning for an exclusively-online fall semester, while 25% are considering a hybrid model and more than half are planning for in-person classes. In March, NAFSA, a nonprofit associated dedicated to international education and exchange, published a report outlining decreasing international student enrollment in U.S. colleges. In addition, the report highlighted that international students contributed nearly $41 billion to the U.S. economy in 2019.

Presumptive democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden retweeted a post by NBC News political reporter Sahil Kapur and added that people who come to America to study and innovate “make America who we are.” Some international students have also questioned how they could return to their home countries given recently announced travel restrictions in the European Union.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Trump Visa Rules Seen as Way to Pressure Colleges on Reopening – The New York Times – 7/7/2020
The effect may be to dramatically reduce the number of international students enrolling in the fall. Together with delays in processing visas as a result of the pandemic, immigrant advocates say the new rules, which must still be finalized this month, might discourage many overseas students from attending American universities, where they often pay full tuition.

Berkeley students planning fraudulent course to circumvent ICE rules, avoid deportations – Fox News – 7/8/2020
“berkeley students are creating a 1-unit, in-person, student-run class to help international students avoid deportation due to the new ICE regulations,” a Berkeley Urban Studies student wrote in a now-deleted tweet, which has been archived by Google. “love my school sometimes.” The tweet was shared more than 25,000 times before it was taken down. It linked to a longer Facebook post stating that a member of the Berkeley community had “found a faculty member who will sponser [sic] this.”

One million foreign students risk being frozen out of US colleges. Some might never come back – CNN – 7/8/2020
Currently, Stanford plans to stagger which students are on campus each semester to maintain social distancing. First year students will be on campus in the fall and summer terms — meaning Fang will be studying remotely in one semester and will have to leave the US for that period. Even that will be challenging. There are few flights between the US and China, where international arrivals have to quarantine for two weeks.

ICE: Foreign Students Must Leave U.S. If Classes Move Online – The American Spectator – 7/8/2020
Both sides have some merit to their arguments. College administrators are correct to point out that these are still extraordinary times, and in many places lockdowns are still ongoing or even intensifying. ICE, for its part, naturally wants to avoid another case of creeping rule relaxation, especially if large numbers of colleges end up switching to a semi-permanent online format. That would leave hundreds of thousands of foreign students free to travel — and possibly work under the table — wherever they please. 

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Eugene Gu, MD on Twitter, 7/8/2020: International students at Harvard and MIT are the best and brightest in the world. They could have chosen any university including Oxford, Cambridge, Tsinghua, or Sorbonne. They chose to come here, and Trump is pushing them away when we need them most. Hope they win this lawsuit.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn on Twitter, 7/8/2020: Good afternoon Harvard and MIT! I see you’re doing your part in maintaining your relationship with China. @Harvard, is this about the $1B you receive from China yearly? @MIT, what about your ties to Chinese AI companies that help the CCP enslave the Uyghur population?

Aaron Hanlon on Twitter, 7/7/2020: The #StudentBan should face lawsuits. It’s not the government’s place to judge whether online instruction requires residential resources, such as high-speed internet, being in same time zone, physical lab or library access, quiet working space, etc. Evict ICE from our classrooms.

Hairy Notlob Balding 大老板 on Twitter, 7/8/2020: I fully support Harvard and MIT in their visa lawsuit for many reasons, I only wish they brought this same level of interest in liberal values to Beijing

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