Frederick, Md. (WDVM) — Last month the federal government passed an unexpected and harrowing legislation that would have forced thousands of international university students out of the country.
The policy would have revoked legal status for any and all international students who planned to take classes solely online in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation also forced schools to certify that their international students were undoubtedly taking in-person classes just to meet the visa requirements.
Universities around the country were quick to respond to the legislation including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who filed a lawsuit against the federal administration. This lawsuit drew support from dozens of states and both private and public universities including Yale, the University of Chicago, Tufts, and state universities in Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Maryland.
When this legislation was introduced, Mount Saint Mary’s University had no intention of moving to distance learning, therefore imposing no threat to their 30 international students. School officials were looking into the possibility of having an influx of transfer students whose previous institution transitioned to online learning.
However, Hood College was prepared to do anything necessary to protect their international students, where about 15% majority of whom are in the graduate school. At Hood, international students make up about 15% of the graduate studies program where Dean April Boulton pointed out that some students are just a semester away from completion.
Upon receiving the news, administrators and professors kept in constant contact with students and made a point to extend special on-campus housing to their international undergraduate students. The college was already planning to modify class structures for the fall semester in order to comply with social distancing regulations. This plan included only filling a portion of their classrooms and having professors alternate when they are physically teaching or virtually holding class. University officials also made the decision that if their institution moved completely to distance learning, their international students would have been prioritized for the in-person classroom spots.
Dean Boulton emphasized that, “our students really have rich exchanges in our classrooms because there is no one prevailing, dominant perspective, attitude, or background of experience.”
Mount Saint Mary’s Vice President of Student Enrollment, Jack Chielli, and Boulton agreed that the international students on their campuses bring incredible value to the learning environment that would have suffered greatly had the legislation not been rescinded.
“You know we think, and I know a lot of our colleagues in higher ed agree with this, that international students are incredibly important of higher ed and we would really fight vigorously to make sure that they continue to be part of that.”Jack Chielli
Boulton also highlighted a very important aspect that should not be forgotten when higher education institutions offer admission to international students. She strongly believes that the international students pose no threat to the admission of American students or applicants. She stated that international students bring not only cultural diversity but also different perspectives that are invaluable to academia.
Both school administrators stressed that international students should be welcomed in their classrooms because of the incredible cultural diversity that they bring.