July 9, 2020
Dear Washington University community,
Earlier this week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that will have a serious, negative impact on international students across our country. During a time when colleges and universities are already facing the challenges of reopening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic while prioritizing the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, the requirement for international students to complete any amount of coursework in the classroom in order to remain in the country is ill-conceived and dangerous. We find this action highly disturbing and unacceptable.
Let us be clear. We are strongly opposed to this change in policy, and to any and all actions that would undermine the ability of international students to come to the U.S., or remain in the country to pursue their research and scholarship. We are deeply disturbed by the direction this administration has consistently taken on these matters – particularly in recent weeks – and we have spoken out numerous times to express our opposition to these actions by our federal government, to offer our support to our international students, and to advocate for them in the strongest possible terms.
We join other universities across the country that are responding individually and collectively to push back against this thoughtless policy change. At Washington University, we have been in action for the past few days and have taken or will take the following steps:
- Upon learning about the ICE decision, we immediately reached out to each of our school deans, who all reaffirmed their commitment to offering a hybrid model this fall with options for in-class coursework to allow students to meet the revised requirements. We have been in contact with each of our international students who is enrolled at Washington University on an F-1 visa to assure them of this commitment and make sure they know that we will work with them to identify the best ways to support their continued progress toward a Washington University degree. We know this situation has been difficult for our students, and we are very concerned about the emotional stress they are experiencing. In addition to outreach from our Office of International Students and Scholars, we have deeply engaged with the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of International Affairs, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and our Habif Health and Wellness Center to operationalize systems of added support for our international students. We also are planning a town hall for our students next week to listen to their concerns and answer their questions.
- Our Government Relations office has communicated with the Missouri and southern Illinois congressional delegations, along with senators from Missouri and Illinois. We are also working closely with the national higher education associations that are weighing in with the administration.
- Yesterday, shortly after Harvard and MIT filed a lawsuit challenging this new policy, our Office of General Counsel engaged with other universities to prepare an amicus brief expressing our strong opposition to the policy. We will also consider exploring other legal options if they become necessary.
Please be assured that we will continue to take all possible steps to support and advocate for our international students, and that we place tremendous value on the contributions of all members of our international community. Our international students, faculty, and staff make Washington University a more vibrant, engaging, and intellectually stimulating place through their innumerable contributions. We are here for our international community and will do everything we can to protect them and ensure that they are able to pursue their academic goals fearlessly and without interruption.
Andrew D. Martin
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs