Digital Learning & Design

Brunonians support international students facing federal directive

While educational institutions worldwide have adapted to remote learning amid the pandemic, many international students became confused when on July 6, 2020 the Department of Homeland Security issued a directive requiring international students to enroll in in-person courses in order to legally stay in the US. The order ran counter to the spirit of the “COVID-19: Guidance for SEVP Stakeholders” issued on March 13, 2020 by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. The new guidelines implied that many international students in the US, including those studying at Brown who could only participate in online courses in the fall semester, would have to leave the country. A number of organizations and individuals at Brown made an effort to express concern over this issue, as well as offering assistance to those affected. 

The Office of International Student and Scholar Services at Brown responded to the order on July 7. In an email to affected students, OISSS claimed that they were “working assiduously to analyze this guidance” and assured that “our planning for Fall 2020 has provided us with greater flexibility to contend with this evolving context.” In the end, the office said that “we are committed to working with you to develop academic continuity plans for degree completion.” The next day, Brown President Christina H. Paxson wrote an open letter to students, faculty, and staff clarifying the school’s objection to the new policy and addressing how Brown would help its international students during this crisis. The Brown Daily Herald followed the story and wrote two articles reporting on the ongoing changes. 

“ This new temporary rule is nothing short of cruel. It comes at a time when every student, regardless of their country of origin, should benefit from the maximum level of flexibility to pursue their studies in a manner that they or their institutions decide has the highest capacity to support their health and safety. ”

CHRISTINA H. PAXSON Brown University President
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On Brown’s intranet [email protected], members of the Brown community offered insights on this issue, shared resources, and organizied other activities to increase awareness of problems and create solidarity with international students from the time the ban was announced. For example, Hogg Sheila, a Senior Library Specialist at the Orwig Music Library, listed links to resources to “read-up on the subject matter” and Luz Oropeza, a graduate student in Hispanic Studies, organized an art project “gathering pictures of objects international students have in their room, house or apartment to remind them of home.” 

According to the Brown Daily Herald, Brown “filed an amicus brief in support of Harvard and MIT on Sunday, July 12.”  On July 14, thanks to such efforts, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rescinded the regulations released on July 6. The efforts to protect international students made by the administration and community at Brown demonstrated that the online learning environment is not a vacuum detached from physical schools or interpersonal connections. There is solidarity in higher education, regardless of whether teaching and learning are carried out virtually or in person.

See The Global Brown team. “SEVP Guidance for Fall 2020.”

See Benjamin Pollard. “Brown to file amicus brief in support of Harvard, MIT in lawsuit against ICE.”  The Brown Daily Herald. July 10, 2020

and Cate Ryan and Benjamin Pollard. “Federal government rescinds ICE, DHS decision prohibiting international students from remaining in the U.S. with a fully online course load” The Brown Daily Herald. July 14, 2020.