FSU, FAMU relieved after Trump administration, ICE drops college student visa rule
University provosts and academic deans were granted a sigh of relief Tuesday when a federal judge unexpectedly announced the Trump administration had rescinded its order prohibiting international college students from staying in the US if their universities only offered online courses.
Judge Allison Burroughs, a federal district judge in Boston, made the announcement during a session to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit filed last week by Harvard and MIT seeking the reversal.
Burroughs said the universities' request for a preliminary injunction blocking the rule was moot because the government had agreed to rescind the policy.
"The Government has agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020" policy, the clerk's notes from Tuesday's session say.
The original guideline issued last Monday by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement determined international students at institutions teaching partly online must be enrolled in a least one face-to-face or hybrid class, a mix of online and in-person teaching, to justify their presence in the country.
The Harvard-MIT suit was supported by more than 200 universities across the country.
The announcement had sparked disruption on campuses – including Florida State and Florida A&M universities.
It comes a day after nearly 200 FSU professors endorsed a letter to President John Thrasher, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Sally McRorie and the Board of Governors urging FSU to file its own legal action.
"FSU spent huge energy this week working to protect our community from this xenophobia,” said Will Hanley, an associate professor of history at FSU who signed the faculty letter. “It was the court challenges of our peer institutions that defeated the policy, however. I hope that next time, we join them."
FAMU Provost Maurice Edington also had scheduled a 4 p.m. town hall to address the issue.
“This is great news for our international students,” said William T. Hyndman III, assistant vice president for International Education and Development, at FAMU. “Nationally there are over one million international students in the U.S. and they contribute over $41 billion to the U.S. economy. We are very happy that this rule has been rescinded.”
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The rescinded directive came as universities across the country are making plans for fall instruction. Most courses are expected to be offered online due to the threatening trends of the coronavirus pandemic, while some courses will be offered in person or through a hybrid approach.
The letter from nearly 200 FSU faculty read:
“On July 6, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a directive denying foreign students enrolled in entirely online programs permission to remain in or enter the United States. These tenured faculty at FSU ask the University to take legal action to prohibit enforcement of the directive.”
United Faculty of Florida/FSU Chapter and the Graduate Assistants United/FSU Chapter, also have sent a letter to FSU’s administration.
The joint statement, obtained by the Democrat, called the federal policy “reckless, guileless, and careless.”
“It will endanger the physical safety and well-being of not only our international students but also our domestic students if classes are required to be in-person this fall,” the statement reads. “If this policy is left unchallenged, many of our international students will be forced to discontinue their education at FSU.”
FSU did not provide a specific response Monday on initiating legal action, but McRorie said FSU had been supporting other efforts to have the policy addressed in Washington.
“While we had a plan in place to support our international students, this decision comes as welcome news. International students are valued members of the FSU community and contribute greatly to the richness and diversity of the university.”
Contact senior writer Byron Dobson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @byrondobson.