Harvard and MIT asked a court on Wednesday to block an order by President Donald Trump’s administration threatening the visas of foreign students whose entire courses have moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Harvard and MIT are among the educational institutions looking to sue Trump for his controversial order mandating foreign students to go back to their home countries if their classes are online.
The universities’ lawsuit was in response to an announcement on Monday by the US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) that the affected students must leave the country or transfer to a school offering in-person tuition.
Harvard, MIT to sue Trump over decision to send back international students
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration in federal court on Wednesday, seeking to block a directive that would strip foreign college students of their visas if the courses they take this fall are entirely online.
“We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students, and international students at institutions across the country, can continue their studies without the threat of deportation,” Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said in a statement.
BREAKING: Harvard and MIT sue Trump admin. over rule that would strip visas from international students.
“The effect — and perhaps even the goal — is to create as much chaos for universities and international students as possible,” the lawsuit alleges. https://t.co/8fTHRhkr28
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 8, 2020
Trump is pushing universities and schools to fully open when the new academic year starts in September despite the US registering record Covid-19 cases.
ICE said in its announcement the State Department would not issue visas to students enrolled in programs that are fully online for the fall semester and such students would not be allowed to enter the country.
Universities with a hybrid system of in-person and online classes will have to show that foreign students are taking as many in-person classes as possible, to maintain their status.
The measure was seen as a move by the White House to put pressure on educational institutions that are adopting a cautious approach to reopening amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Harvard, MIT criticise Trump order for being reckless
“The order came down without notice — its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness,” Bacow said.
He added it was made “without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors and others.” The universities say in their lawsuit that the order would harm students “immensely,” both personally and financially.
It describes the order as “arbitrary and capricious” and says it threw US higher education “into chaos.” There were more than one million international students in the US for the 2018-19 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE).
The plaintiffs ask that the court issue a temporary restraining order and “permanent injunctive relief” preventing the policy being enforced.
They also ask that the order be declared unlawful, that their legal costs are covered, and that they receive any other relief that the court deems appropriate.
The lawsuit, filed in Boston, lists the defendants as ICE and the United States Department of Homeland Security.
Universities deciding whether to conduct classes online
The US posted a daily high of 60,209 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, Johns Hopkins University said, and the country topped three million cases on Wednesday. The disease has claimed more than 131,000 lives across America.
Most US colleges and universities have not yet announced their plans for the fall semester but Harvard has said all its classes for the 2020-21 academic year will be conducted online “with rare exceptions.” Some 40 percent of undergraduates will be allowed to return to campus, but their instruction will be conducted remotely.
It says packed classrooms endanger the health of students and teachers.
Trump has branded the decision “ridiculous” as he takes a bullish approach to reopening the country ahead of November’s presidential vote, when he seeks reelection.
Harvard set to adopt ‘hybrid-learning’
Harvard announced today that it would invite only 40% of its undergraduates to live on campus this fall, in a move that is construed as hybrid-learning. All 1,650 first-year students will have the option to reside on the Cambridge grounds when the term begins on September 2. But students will not attend live classes. Instead they will isolate in their single dormitory bedrooms and take all of their courses online.
“We’re not advocating that students come to campus,” says a Harvard spokesperson. “We just recognize that for first-year students, being on campus this year is incredibly important.”
The advantages for first-year students include the opportunity to meet their peers face to face and to interact live with the proctors, tutors and academic deans who are assigned to first-year dorms. But beyond those one-on-one meetings and small, informal gatherings, there will be no organized live activities. “We’re going to prioritize virtual socializing,” says the Harvard spokesperson. “That should be the first option for social contact.”
Plans for the spring semester are not yet set. Tentatively, Harvard will send first-year students home and bring seniors back to finish their final semester living in campus housing, should they choose. It is hoped that the Spring will bring with it better conditions and allow Harvard to quit the hybrid-learning approach.
This new policy will ruin the new hybrid-learning model, which makes sense why Harvard would sue the Trump administration.
GVS News Desk with additional input from other sources