Starting Wednesday, July 8, an HIO Advisor-on-Call will be available via Zoom Monday – Friday from 9:00 -10:00am and 4:00 - 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time. This service is offered via Zoom on a first-come, first-serve basis, and is intended for international students and scholars with quick questions. For details on accessing the Advisor-on-Call waiting room during these times, please click here.
Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
On Monday, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that international students will not be allowed to stay in the country if they attend institutions, like Harvard, that are holding courses online this fall. Their choices are either to transfer to another institution that provides in-person or hybrid (both in-person and online) instruction—or to depart the country and risk not being able to return. Those students who fail to comply with this guidance may face deportation.
The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others. This comes at a time when the United States has been setting daily records for the number of new infections, with more than 300,000 new cases reported since July 1. Moreover, if an institution pursues in-person or hybrid instruction this fall and a serious outbreak of COVID-19 occurs, the institution would face strong pressure not to switch to online instruction, as Harvard and others necessarily did this past March, because to do so would immediately place its international students in jeopardy.
In making plans for the fall, Harvard, like many other institutions, has sought to balance addressing concerns for public health with preserving our academic mission of teaching and scholarship, and we have undertaken careful planning to address the unique circumstances of our community and to enable students to make educational progress safely. We have done so recognizing that the nation is in the grip of a pandemic that poses risks to the health of millions and that threatens to overwhelm our capacity to manage it. We believe that the ICE order is bad public policy, and we believe that it is illegal.
Within the last hour, we filed pleadings together with MIT in the US District Court in Boston seeking a temporary restraining order prohibiting enforcement of the order. We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students—and international students at institutions across the country—can continue their studies without the threat of deportation.
For many of our international students, studying in the United States and studying at Harvard is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. These students are our students, and they enrich the learning environment for all. We fervently hope that, before long, the circumstances that necessitate online learning will pass. As a university with a profound commitment to residential education, we hope and intend to resume full in-person instruction as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so. But, until that time comes, we will not stand by to see our international students’ dreams extinguished by a deeply misguided order. We owe it to them to stand up and to fight—and we will.
In recent weeks, like many of our colleague institutions across the country, Harvard has announced plans for the fall semester. Our schools have taken into account the most up-to-date public health and safety guidance, the specific educational requirements of their programs, and their unique student populations. The wellbeing of the University community has been our highest priority in making these difficult decisions.
We are deeply concerned that the guidance issued today by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement imposes a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem, giving international students, particularly those in online programs, few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools. This guidance undermines the thoughtful approach taken on behalf of students by so many institutions, including Harvard, to plan for continuing academic programs while balancing the health and safety challenges of the global pandemic.
We will work closely with other colleges and universities around the country to chart a path forward. We must do all that we can to ensure that our students can continue their studies without fear of being forced to leave the country mid-way through the year, disrupting their academic progress and undermining the commitments—and sacrifices—that many of them have made to advance their education.
I feel like there is a lot to learn and imbibe from people due to the vast diversity in the background, culture and personalities and also because the international folklore is quite large. Hence, every other person I meet on campus has an amazing story to tell and an interesting background to share.