*Editor’s Note, July 15, 2020: Following the publication of this announcement, the Trump administrator rescinded its proposed policy to bar international students who only take online courses from staying in the United States.
Utah State University President Noelle E. Cockett, on behalf of the university, has joined an amicus brief in support of Harvard's and MIT's lawsuit challenging forthcoming U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rules that, if put into place, would bar online study for international students.President Cockett signed the brief, filed by the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a partner program of the National Center for Civic Innovation. President Cockett is a founding member of the organization and serves on its steering committee.
“I think it’s essential that we show support for our international students,” she said. “These rules, if they come to pass, would severely impacts our students. Our international students are among our best and brightest students, and, more important today, they are our dear friends who bring critical cultural diversity and understanding to our entire student body.”
She said the rules would have significant impact on USU’s 400-plus international students, their families, on the rest of the USU student body and on the community.
President Cockett said she is particularly bothered by the rule that if a university moves to all remote learning during the semester, international students will need to transfer to another institution or go home. This shows a complete lack of sensitivity to the complicated, and expensive, processes USU international student endured to come to USU in the first place.
“It is not a simple, or inexpensive, matter to just change institutions mid-semester,” she said.
She said she was also troubled by ICE’s statement that seems to infer that international students are spreading COVID-19 in our communities, and that simply is not the case.
The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration led a coordinated effort of 180 member colleges and universities in filing the brief in support of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The plaintiffs seek an injunction against new guidance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that effectively implements a ban on international students enrolled in online-only courses. The amicus brief argues that higher education institutions and international students will experience significant burdens due to the guidance’s arbitrary prohibition, without notice, to online-only courses for international students, particularly after investing substantial resources in planning their fall 2020 operations.
Institutions, the amicus brief argues, relied heavily on the existing government guidance that flexibility would continue “for the duration of the emergency.”
The brief makes the point that higher education institutions, including USU, relied heavily on the government’s flexibility in planning for the 2020 school year in light of COVID-19. Higher education institutions devoted hours to planning their response to COVID-19 by relying on the government’s own flexibility.
Institutions also relied on the government’s flexibility on international-student education, and online instruction factored into the schools’ decision making about tuition decisions, admission decisions, housing plans, course sizes. Schools understood that there might be visa delays or government travel restrictions) but they assumed the could continue to educate at least international students who remained in the United States.
The brief describes the substantial contributions international students make to campuses, including by fostering diversity, enhancing a school’s and the U.S. education system’s intellectual competitiveness, contributing to a school’s athletic and other extracurricular programs, and economically benefiting the schools and neighboring communities.