Our support for international students

July 10, 2020

To: University Community
From: Dr. Steven Wuhs, Assistant Provost for Internationalization
Subject: Our support for international students

To our Redlands International Students and All Members of the University Community,

On Monday, July 6, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued revised guidelines to universities like University of Redlands that enroll international students on F-1 student visas.  Those guidelines removed an important exemption that supported our international students during the spring and summer of 2020: permission to enroll full-time in online courses.  Full-time online enrollment allowed our 118 F-1 students to continue their educations from their home countries, from homes in California, or from the homes of families and friends in the US.  Removal of that exemption means that F-1 international students cannot be enrolled full-time online – that is, they must enroll in some hybrid or in-person courses to remain in the US for the fall 2020 semester.  If they do not, and enroll for fully online schedules, they will be forced to return to their home countries.  This rule is disruptive, disrespectful, and painful for our international student community.

We are most concerned about serving our current and incoming international students facing the threat of deportation, the challenge of uprooting themselves and their families, and the disappointment of not even being able to start an education they have committed to.  Since the new regulations were announced on Monday, we have been communicating individually with our international students as they have expressed questions, doubts and concerns about what the new regulations mean for them.

Our current planning for Fall 2020, which emphasizes mixed modalities (in-person, hybrid instruction, and online learning) across the university, enables us to protect our international students from being forced to return to their home countries.  Very few of them were adversely affected by the ICE guidelines, and we will safeguard any concerned students by building personalized programs of study that include in-person or hybrid instruction.

There is an important broader context here, beyond our international students and our campus.  Given the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, this regulation puts international students in a precarious position by forcing institutions considering online education in the context of the pandemic to either prioritize health and safety concerns or place their international students at risk of deportation.  As an institution that deeply values our international students, we oppose these proposed new regulations and their underlying logic.  Through our higher learning associations, we are engaged in conversations about ways to constructively challenge them.  In addition, some institutions have initiated legal challenges that could provide relief from the regulations.  We are also pressuring our lawmakers through associations like the American Council on Education which, like us, are deeply critical of these regulatory changes.

We will continue to support our international students in the coming weeks – and not just those who plan to continue their studies at our campuses.  We will advocate for students voluntarily choosing to do online coursework from home this fall and planning to return to campus in the spring 2021 semester.  For incoming students, we will ensure that they too are able to meet the new requirements and join the Redlands community this fall or next spring, as they choose.  And for all our international students, we will continue to make sure you are able to take full advantage of the opportunities you deserve as members of that community.

If you are an international student concerned about how this regulation might affect you, please email me immediately at steve_wuhs@redlands.edu.  Likewise, if you are interested in joining an emerging group of students concerned about this, please email me. 

If you are interested in educating yourself and members of your community about the recent ICE actions, please bookmark the following websites (https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/sevp-covid-19-guidance-fall-2020 and https://www.acenet.edu/Pages/default.aspx) and consider contacting your member of Congress to express your concerns about the harm these guidelines will exact on international students in the United States.