E-Learning: Harvard, MIT query US new order affecting foreign students, sue Trump administration

*Fresh guidance may force international students to leave US if their schools transition to online-only courses

*ICE’s guidance threatens to impact approximately 5,000 international students at Harvard University

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Top American universities, in a swift response to implications of online-only learning to international students, have reacted to the Donald Trump Administration’s new guidance by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on schools’ possible shift to ‘online-only’ learning, implying that foreign students currently studying in the United States (US) may have to leave.

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in a lawsuit filed Wednesday, July 8, 2020, requested an order to block the guidance issued by the government affecting international students, says agency report.

The lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT seeks to stop the government from imposing the guidance on the basis that it violates the Administrative Procedures Act.

In the complaint, the universities stated that “the ability to provide remote education during the pandemic is of paramount importance to universities across the country. “COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease that spreads from human to human in close contact situations.

The institutions of learning said the “ICE’s action proceeded without any indication of having considered the health of students, faculty, university staff, or communities.”

Recall that the ICE, earlier in the week, issued a news release recommending that the government would not allow foreign students whose universities transitioned to online-only courses to remain in the US this fall semester.

The agency implied that the international students to whom the new guidance applies must “depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.”

Harvard President Larry Bacow immediately expressed opposition to the rule change. Harvard is “deeply concerned” that the new guidance “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,” Bacow said.

Following the outbreak and recent spikes in the spread of novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the US, and the need to keep students and instructors safe, Harvard has announced that all of its courses will be carried out online, including for students living on campus.

The latest order threatens to impact roughly 5,000 of the school’s international students.

According to Bacow, in a chat with the CNN, “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.”

The universities’ lawsuit noted that the guidance will leave “hundreds of thousands of international students with no educational options within the United States,” just weeks ahead of the fall semester.

“Students are largely unable to transfer to universities providing on-campus instruction, notwithstanding ICE’s suggestion that they might do so to avoid removal from the country.

Moreover, for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous,” the suit said.

Meanwhile, following the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases, American universities may delay reopening until 2021, as officials are keeping public health in mind when it comes to deciding when schools will be opened, it was learnt.

Boston University (BU), in an online statement, said it has already cancelled all “in-person summer activities” on its main campus and is considering the possibility of extending its remote learning strategies.

“The Recovery Plan recognises that if, in the unlikely event that public health officials deem it unsafe to open in the fall of 2020, then the University’s contingency plan envisions the need to consider a later in-person return, perhaps in January 2021,” BU stated in the release.

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