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NEC’s Response to Federal Requirement that International Students Attend Classes in Person


New England College’s Response to Federal Requirement that
International Students Attend Classes in Person

Henniker, NH (July 13, 2020) – Amid a national health emergency, the federal government just reversed its own policy to now require that all international students attend college in person, under threat of deportation. This move imposes an unjust hardship on international students already residing legally in the United States and upsets plans by colleges and universities to use online and remote learning to support students during this difficult time of an unprecedented pandemic. The administration’s decision also casts aside months of work that institutions of higher education have completed to support the educational goals of all of our students in this time of COVID-19.

I place an enormous value on in-person education. But a pandemic makes us all adjust and provide quality education to all our students in various modes of delivery.  Times like these call for quick wits and cool heads. Not scapegoating. Therefore, as New England College President and Chair of the New Hampshire College & University Council (NHCUC), I support the legal challenge put forth by Harvard and MIT and  have joined my colleagues at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and the American Council on Education (ACE) in a letter to Congress expressing our opposition to this decision. We will ask legislators to convince the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to withdraw the July 6 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) directive affecting international students or immediately pass legislation granting the flexibility both students and institutions need during a pandemic.

Educating international students is a long and proud endeavor for U.S. higher education. Our country’s post-secondary offerings draw the most brilliant and talented minds from almost every country on earth.  The intellectual energy and the tireless pursuit of knowledge so evident in our students from abroad set an example for us all. Some of these students do remain in the U.S. after graduation and add to the talent pool that continues to make our country the world’s leader in technology, medicine, business, and the arts.  The majority who return home leave with a positive attitude toward the United States, which also benefits our country in many ways.  I have presided at thirteen commencements during my tenure as President of New England College and at these ceremonies I have proudly shaken the hands of thousands of accomplished international graduates.  These students personify the very yearnings that built the country we cherish. It will be a great error to dampen their spirits with an unfeeling and unneeded rule.

We must not remain silent in the face of this action, but rather follow Thurgood Marshall’s urgent counsel: “Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it.” By stepping forward and asking for redress, we in higher education may, I hope, provide a valuable civic example for our students and the larger community. Let’s hope we can resolve this problem quickly and get back to the work of education in the time of COVID-19.