Harvard and MIT continue to stop new US policy on international students

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Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have continued to block Donald Trump’s attempts to expel international students from American universities if their courses were fully online due to a coronavirus.

In a lawsuit in the US federal court in Boston, the two prominent American universities jointly requested a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to end the policy announced on Monday that foreign students whose courses were now online should leave the country or be transferred. to a course with instruction in person to maintain their legal status.

“The order was issued without notice – his cruelty went beyond his carelessness,” said Harvard president Larry Bacow. “It appears to have been purposely designed to pressure colleges and universities to open their classrooms on campus for in-person teaching this fall, with no regard for health and safety students, instructors and others. ”

In their court records, the universities argued that the change would leave “hundreds of thousands of international students with no educational options in the United States,” because most could not be transferred to another school in such a short time.

“In addition, for many students, returning to their country of origin to participate in online education is impossible, impractical, prohibitively expensive and / or dangerous,” they added.

The two universities, which attract about 9,000 international students to the United States with F-1 university study visas each year, argued that even if students could return home, it could be difficult to participate in learning online from different time zones.

“Our international students now have many questions – about their visas, their health, their families, and their ability to continue working for an MIT degree,” said MIT President Rafael Reif. “Unspoken, but unmistakable, is another question: am I welcome?” ”

Colleges and universities across the United States are wondering how to safely send students back to campus because they fear that moving too quickly will trigger a new wave of infections. Many choose to offer education altogether or partly online.

Harvard and MIT said that “after careful planning”, they and several other US universities had decided to do “most” of their fall 2020 term online to protect the health of students, faculty and staff – but that the new immigration decision had thrown them “Into chaos”.

Donald Trump in particular is keen to have students of all ages return to school this fall, as he hopes to revive the U.S. economy after months of foreclosure. Asked at a White House event on Tuesday of Harvard’s decision to offer online courses, the President said, “They should be ashamed of themselves.” ”

While Harvard and MIT are the first universities to pursue, others have formulated strategies to protect their international students. Princeton said it “supports” the Harvard and MIT trial and “is considering all legal options and other measures to protect our students.”

Other universities are planning to work on the new rules, ensuring that all students, including foreigners, have a minimum threshold for in-person instruction to allow them to maintain their immigration status.

Columbia University of New York has stated that when making decisions about its course structure for the next academic year, it will seek to offer “hybrid” courses online and in person to “mitigate the negative impact of these new regulations on Columbia students. ”

“We want our international students to be able to complete their studies here, if possible,” said Columbia President Lee Bollinger in a letter to the students.

Amherst College in Massachusetts, which had previously planned to offer a mix of online and in-person instruction, said it “can and will” have international students on campus and enroll in courses involving elements in person.

The California University of Technology, or Caltech, called the rule change “deeply troubling” and said it was “carefully considering the implications” of the ordinance for the new academic year. He said he would develop an educational approach that “prioritizes the well-being of all members of the community”.

Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global affairs at Fletcher School, Tufts University, said international students were “in the crosshairs” as the US administration tried to minimize the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and “forced” the opening of establishments and schools.

“Many of these students are exactly the basic type of talent that America needs for its continued health and the health of the economy,” said Mr. Chakravorti.

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