This past week has been flooded with news related to the pandemic and GW’s response, but both the best and worst headlines surround recent regulations regarding international students released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
While ICE declared that international students attending institutions of higher education in the United States will not be allowed to remain in the country if their school opts for a virtual semester, the University has been quick to condemn the decision and is pushing for the decision to be reversed.
Here’s the best and worst of this week’s headlines:
COVID-19 has drastically altered the predictable nature of higher education. Students and administrators at universities nationwide are still unsure about how their fall semester will unfold – whether instruction will be in person, online or some hybrid of the two and for how long on-campus instruction is sustainable. Amid all this uncertainty, the last thing anyone needed was seriously disruptive regulations from the federal government, and yet, that’s what ICE delivered.
ICE’s guidelines force universities unsure about the safety of holding in-person classes in fall to consider something new: whether or not they want to sacrifice the visas of their international students in the process. For international students, safety is no longer their only consideration when opting to take online classes – now, they must decide whether the loss of their visa is worth it.
ICE’s decision is not only disruptive to international students but blatantly ignores and disrupts the complex calculation related to safety that students and higher education administrators need to make. The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench in everyone’s lives. ICE’s guidelines are based on regulations in place for visas already issued, but they must also consider these uncertain and unpredictable times.
International students at GW are not currently impacted by ICE’s order, but administrators nonetheless have chosen to speak up and support international students because the University is planning for a hybrid semester.
Through its public statements and its membership in higher education groups like the American Council on Education, GW is not only backing its international students but also wading into a potentially controversial fight it could just as easily ignore. The University has a financial interest in ensuring international students are able to attend classes should we need to opt for an online semester, but it would be far simpler for officials not to use their position to speak up or to punt responsibility to higher education lobbying groups. GW’s statements are commendable.
But the University could do even more. This past week, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief from the guidelines. GW should join its fellow higher education institutions in filing a lawsuit to fight this decision in the courts, where more could be accomplished.
Hannah Thacker, a rising junior majoring in political communication, is the opinions editor.
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