July 8, 2020
Dear Gonzaga Community Members,
On Monday of this week, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications to temporary exemptions that were introduced in the Spring for nonimmigrant students. The temporary exemptions allowed students on F-1 and M-1 visas to continue their coursework remotely (i.e., “online”), due to college and university closures induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The newly-announced modifications end the temporary exemption and state that:
“The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings” (ICE.gov news release, 7/6/20).
The plan to end the temporary exemption that allows international students to maintain their visa status while taking online courses is both inappropriate and inhumane in light of the ongoing pandemic. Wrestling with the many challenges COVID-19 has created for all of us has been a daunting task; adding this element of anxiety and complexity to an already overwhelmed and stressed community of students, parents, faculty and staff is both cruel and unjustified. International students are a vital part of the American higher education community, and we are proud to be one of the universities that international students have chosen for their educational programs for many years. As a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic and humanistic university, we belong to an international community of teachers, scholars and researchers that work tirelessly to advance knowledge and understanding in service to a world that is in constant need of tangible solutions to complex problems.
We at Gonzaga University stand with our international students and will work together with our Congressional delegation, colleague institutions, and the Associations of which we are a member to change this proposal so that it does not adversely affect our international students, each of whom is an important member of our university community. I am proud to see the groundswell of support for international students coming from within our community, and from colleague institutions around the country. Although Gonzaga does at this time remain intent upon offering courses in-person as well as on-line, we will continue to study this proposal and determine what options we can provide to allow our international students to continue their studies while remaining protected and supported during this challenging time.
Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil.