Changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program
Dear Colby Community,
Earlier this week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program for non-immigrant students on F-1 and M-1 visas for academic and vocational study. The changes would force international students to leave the country or transfer to an institution offering in-person classes if their colleges and universities are offering classes entirely online during the fall semester. The announcement further indicates that if institutions offering a mix of in-person and remote classes go completely remote during the semester, international students would then have to leave the United States. This is a cruel and deeply wrong-headed policy—announced without notice—and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.
Because Colby will offer a combination of in-person/hybrid and fully-remote classes, we can and will have our international students on campus and enrolled in classes that involve in-person teaching and learning. However, it appears that the policy was designed to limit the number of international students studying in the United States and possibly to pressure colleges and universities to resume in-person instruction, regardless of the circumstances specific to each institution. It makes absolutely no sense to penalize international students because institutions have made the best possible decisions regarding the health and safety of their campuses in a pandemic. The inability to predict the course of the pandemic also means that colleges and universities across the country may have to move all classes online at some point. Like many other institutions, Colby has sought to balance concerns for public health with pursuing our academic mission of residential liberal arts teaching and scholarship, and we have planned carefully to enable our students to continue their educations safely. As conditions change, we need to be able to make the best decisions for our community’s well-being and safety.
We believe that the ICE order is bad public policy in its intent and in its implementation. In fact, the policy as written is confusing, and subsequent attempts at clarifications from ICE have directly contradicted the original directive. We want to be able to give our students clear advice on these important issues but, like our colleagues across the country, we still have many unanswered questions about the directive and its enforcement.
We are actively engaged in work to try to prohibit enforcement of this order, and we have joined a coalition of colleges and universities that have filed suit to challenge it. We are also working directly with our congressional delegation, and Senator Collins is reaching out to the director of Homeland Security to underscore the damaging effects of this policy on our students. We are also active with other organizations, including the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a coalition of institutions that is dedicated to advocating for international and undocumented students who study on our campuses.
We will do everything we can to help our international students persist in their studies at Colby, and our staff is in regular contact with them. Each and every one of these students is a deeply valued member of our community, and their presence enhances the College’s intellectual and social vibrancy.
We will continue working to understand the full implications of these changes, to provide good information so our students can make fully informed decisions, to identify the forms of support available to our international students who wish to return to campus, and to advocate at the national level for a rescission of this policy.
David A. Greene
Provost and Dean of Faculty
Karlene Burrell-McRae ’94
Dean of the College