Support for our International Students
July 8, 2020
Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:
As a global institution, Georgetown welcomes and supports students from across the world. Our international students are integral members of our University community, who have earned their place at Georgetown and who make vital contributions to the Academy and our world.
On July 6, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued guidance for the Fall semester that limits the ability of international students in the United States on F-1 visas to participate in virtual modes of course delivery during this health crisis. This new rule rescinds guidance issued in the Spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged in the United States, which had provided important flexibility to ensure the continuity of educational programs for our international students during a global pandemic.
Our University strongly opposes this reckless action. It creates new and unnecessary barriers for international students and puts their health, stability, and academic progress at risk if they are unable to participate in classes in-person. The new requirements fail to recognize the invaluable contributions of our international students within our community and the impacts of this abrupt change during an ongoing pandemic.
We are working on a number of fronts to limit, and if possible prevent, the negative impact of this rule on our international students.
We are joining a number of colleges and universities in submitting an amicus brief in federal court opposing this new, damaging guidance. Over many years we have participated in legal challenges to immigration policies that negatively affect our community, including cases challenging the 2017 “Travel Ban” executive order on predominantly Muslim countries, the Department of Homeland Security’s 2019 immigration policy on “unlawful presence,” and the Administration’s revocation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Our Office of Federal Relations is also deeply engaged with partners across higher education, and with members of our community, to advocate on behalf of our University on issues impacting our international students.
At the same time, we are engaging with our faculty and academic staff in our undergraduate schools, our Graduate School, and our Medical and Law campuses, each of which has implemented hybrid-flexible approaches, to try to include sufficient in-person components in Fall programs to satisfy visa requirements for international students, even if the new guidance stands. We are working through the implications for our School of Continuing Studies, which has planned for a fully-virtual learning environment.
Our Office of Global Services (OGS), and colleagues across the University, will continue their work to respond to the individual circumstances that many of our international students face at this time. OGS is working with Academic leaders to host Town Hall meetings with undergraduate and graduate students and their families in the coming days. I wish to express my deep appreciation to our colleagues who have been working tirelessly to navigate this challenging moment in support of our students.
For more than two centuries, our identity as a Catholic and Jesuit institution has called us to engage the world, to build bridges, and to contribute to the work of the common good. It has never been more urgent or more important for us to sustain and advance the global character of our University, and we will work to uphold and honor that responsibility today.
John J. DeGioia