The United States Department of Homeland Security recently issued new guidelines mandating that international college students in the U.S. must leave the country if their coursework at American colleges and universities is entirely online this fall.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong announced the filing of a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government in opposition to this policy on Monday.
UConn strongly opposes this mandate, as it will cause harm to the University in several different ways.
“Forcing our international students to go abroad, even if they choose to remain with UConn remotely, deprives these students of significant value to their education,” says President Thomas Katsouleas. “They lose the ability to participate in clinical experiences that might not count towards credit. They lose the valuable opportunity to communicate and collaborate in person with professors. They lose the valuable opportunity to interact with and learn from their peer students. They lose the valuable opportunity to be involved in campus life – clubs, organizations, sports, social interactions, those aspects of an academic experience that make this period of their lives so memorable and formative.
“The directive has severe negative impacts on our graduate student operations. The majority of our normally-enrolled 1,600 international graduate students serve as teaching and research assistants and are slated to provide essential services in support of our fall 2020 re-opening efforts. Requiring teaching assistants to provide instruction from remote locations in their home countries, potentially with considerable time-zone disparities and variable connectivity, will make it hard, if not impossible, for faculty to coordinate with them and obtain the full benefit of their pedagogy. For those unable to complete their service abroad, UConn will be left with little to no time in which to find qualified individuals to replace this lost workforce and provide the necessary services.”
Connecticut is one of 18 states that are parties to this lawsuit, which seeks an immediate injunction.
“We are frustrated by this decision and the way it targets international students, who have already endured so many challenges related to the pandemic,” says UConn Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Carl Lejuez. “This new directive will cause severe disruption to the lives of our international students, a core part of the UConn family. Many of these students have stayed in Connecticut during the pandemic, have leases, spend considerable time away from their families and loved ones abroad, and at this moment, are simply unable to depart the United States given limited flights and travel restrictions. They made decisions to come to Connecticut for their education, decisions that lead to sacrificing time with loved ones in order for UConn to provide access to an exceptional education. It is our responsibility to ensure that they are treated fairly and their aspirations can be fulfilled.”
Justin Fang, Graduate Student Trustee on the UConn Board of Trustees, spoke at the media briefing announcing Connecticut’s participation in the lawsuit.
“International students play an important role in the cultural diversity of UConn and contribute to all campus activities, most prominently supporting the teaching and research mission of the University,” Fang said at the briefing. “The new, restrictive policy would seriously jeopardize the multicultural environment that we have worked hard to cultivate at UConn.”