Roundup: California universities oppose U.S. government's rule on int'l students amid pandemic

Source: Xinhua| 2020-07-11 03:36:20|Editor: huaxia

File photo taken on March 9, 2012 shows trainees warm up in a Kungfu class at Stanford University in California, the United States. (Xinhua/Liu Yilin)

"With this lawsuit, California is standing up for the 21,000 international students who attend our community colleges and standing up for our right to continue teaching and learning in a safe and responsible way during the pandemic," says California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.

LOS ANGELES, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Top universities in U.S. state of California have joined the nation's higher education community in challenging the Trump administration's rule that would imperil international students if their universities switch to online-only courses in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on Monday that international students will be barred from staying in the nation if their school's classes are entirely online in the fall semester. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued in federal court Wednesday to try to block the Trump administration's new directive.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, and California State University Chancellor Timothy White announced in a joint statement on Thursday that California is filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's "unlawful policy that threatens to exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 and exile hundreds of thousands of college students studying in the United States through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program."

"At a time when COVID-19 cases are surging across the state, the policy requires international students to take classes in person - putting themselves, teachers, other students, and the community at large at risk of getting and spreading the coronavirus - or be subject to deportation," said the officials in the statement.

"Beyond the myriad significant direct harms to individual students, the mission of California's higher education institutions would suffer if international students are forced to disenroll because of the Trump Administration's arbitrary actions. It will also likely further burden educational institutions at a time when the state faces significant budget shortfalls and schools are already struggling to confront the economic and public health impacts of COVID-19," they added.

People attend the Cal Day event at the University of California, Berkeley Campus in Berkeley, California, the United States, on April 21, 2018. (Xinhua/Wu Xiaoling)

California is the state with the largest university systems in the nation. Officials pointed out that with new COVID-19 cases averaging more than 7,500 a day in the most populous U.S. state over the last week, the Trump administration's policy threatens to turn California's colleges and universities into "super-spreaders" of the disease.

"With this lawsuit, California is standing up for the 21,000 international students who attend our community colleges and standing up for our right to continue teaching and learning in a safe and responsible way during the pandemic," said Oakley.

White also noted that the university stands in the strongest opposition to the policy guidance.

"It is a callous and inflexible policy that unfairly disrupts our more-than 10,300 international students' progress to a degree, unnecessarily placing them in an extremely difficult position. And it deprives all of our students - and the communities, state, and nation we serve - of the remarkable contributions of these international students," White noted.

The University of California (UC) announced plans to file suit against ICE over the rule earlier this week. In a press release issued by the university on Wednesday, UC President Janet Napolitano called the rule "mean-spirited, arbitrary and damaging to America."

Students congregate at the University of California's Los Angeles campus in Los Angeles, the United States, on June 1, 2016. (Xinhua/Yang Lei)

UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Perez was quoted by the statement as saying that UC has increased online instruction and decreased in-person classes in order to protect students' health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "It is imperative for UC to file this lawsuit in order to protect our students."

The UC's 2019 fall enrollment data showed that 27,205 of the university's 226,125 undergraduate students are non-resident international while 13,995 of the university's 58,941 graduate students are non-resident international.

The 10-campus UC system enrolled about 38 percent of the state's over 68,000 Chinese international students, who primarily attended San Diego, Irvine, Davis, Berkeley and UCLA, according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times.

Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne wrote in a Wednesday email that he had sent a letter to the acting secretary of homeland security in opposition to new immigration regulations.

He added that the university in the San Francisco Bay Area will file an amicus brief in support of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Two Chinese students walk on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California, the United States, June 3, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Ying)

The University of Southern California (USC) announced on Wednesday that the university has joined an amicus brief strongly supporting the lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The highly rated private research university located in Los Angeles also noted that it is actively considering all other legal options.

"We are also working with our Congressional delegation and fellow universities on legislative and other solutions to this terribly misguided decision," USC President Carol Folt said in a statement.

"Given the broad range of courses being offered, both in person and online, we are optimistic we will be able to support our international students to study in person safely if they wish, but it may take a few days," the university noted.

"To our international students: If you need to add an in-person course to your schedule to maintain visa status this Fall, it will be provided at no additional cost to you," tweeted USC Office of the Provost on Thursday.

USC is extremely popular with international students. A total of 12,265 international students were enrolled at USC during the 2019-20 academic year, with around 7,000 from China, according to the university's website.