Caving to intense opposition from Stanford and universities nationwide, the Trump administration rescinded a directive that would have stripped international students of their visas if they took a completely online courseload. The announcement came on Tuesday, as part of an agreement reached by Harvard and MIT in a lawsuit against the federal government.
With more than 570 participants listening in, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs read out the agreement, in a hearing that lasted a little over five minutes and was accessible to the public through Zoom. Attorneys for Harvard and the U.S. government have confirmed the agreement.
In addition to filing an amicus brief in support of the Harvard and MIT lawsuit, Stanford filed a separate lawsuit with 19 other colleges and universities opposing the original directive.
University spokesperson E.J. Miranda said, “since the government rescinded the rule, the suit is moot.”
The news of the Trump administration’s reversal has been warmly received at Stanford.
Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne celebrated the “most welcome news,” saying the University would soon give international students more guidance about plans for the fall.
“For now, we are delighted that this obstacle to their continued progress towards their degrees has been removed,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote.
For Darryl Frimpong Asmah Thompson ’23, a student from Ghana, the news came “as a sigh for relief.”
“The rescinded decision gives us some assurance that we would be able to continue to make academic progress,” Thompson wrote.
Ruth Starkman, a lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric also celebrated the rescinding of the policy — while pointing out areas for improvement.
“Now that this short-sighted, punitive ICE directive has been rescinded, we should not miss this opportunity to recognize that we should be doing better by our international students, who help make our universities the great cosmopolitan places they are,” Starkman wrote.
Leslie Anasu Espinoza-Campomanes ’23, a student from Peru, saw the announcement as reassuring, finally bringing some clarity to the situation.
“Today I was very happy to be more calm and feel that I’m no longer skeptical of what my future is going to be like,” Espinoza-Campomanes said.
While campus is celebrating the news, international students are staying alert for any new regulations that might be coming their way.
“I am hopeful that this reversal will stay but, just as this news hit us all of a sudden, anything can happen,” Thompson wrote.
Indeed, according to Reuters reporter Ted Hesson, an official in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said another directive may be forthcoming.
“A senior DHS official said the administration still intends to issue a regulation in the coming weeks addressing whether foreign students can remain in the United States if their classes move online,” Hesson wrote on Twitter.
When Espinoza-Campomanes heard about the possibility of a new regulation, she braced for more stress for international students.
“They should know that we’re college students,” Espinoza-Campomanes said. “They are providing these problems to adolescents. We just finished high school and I cannot believe that they are making our life more difficult if things are solved right now.”
Russell Berman, a comparative literature and German studies professor who is also a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, sees the regulation and the legal opposition that followed as a chance to re-think the education delivered to international students.
“We should have been doing much better in terms of international student education for a long time,” Berman said. “Instead, we’re scrambling at the last minute.”
He believes that this directive highlighted the value of offering a curriculum that addresses the needs of the international students.
“International students are very heterogeneous — graduate, undergraduate, coming from many different countries — but what they all have in common is they’ve chosen to come to the United States to study,” Berman said. “Stanford University, as a leading American university, should offer courses about U.S. democracy, civics and U.S. culture. These courses, I think, should explain America in a serious scholarly way: neither with denunciation or celebration.”
Shalini Bhutani, the executive director of Bechtel International Center sent an email to the intl-student-update mailing list on the reversal of the policy, pledging to issue more detailed guidance soon.
Bhutani also apologized for aspects of the communication from Bechtel to international students.
“I apologize for not being able to be more timely and transparent in our communication with you,” Bhutani wrote. “We have been dealing with an unprecedented number of emails and requests for appointments.”
Contact Anastasia Malenko at malenk0 ‘at’ stanford.edu.