Rani Madhiwala | Guest Columnist
On July 6, the rights of international students across the nation were revoked as the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications for non-immigrant students taking online classes in the United States. These modifications stated that international students will NOT be able to remain in the United States if their college offers online-only classes. During normal conditions, all international students are not allowed to be fully online; however, a global pandemic is NOT a normal condition.
Many international students and their families work so hard to come to the United States for better opportunities, resources, financial aid and scholarships that are not available to them in their home countries. As a child of immigrants, I understand how hard it is to travel to the United States, leaving behind the place you call home and to obtain a better quality education and career opportunities for yourself. Returning home would force many international students to hinder their studies because they may not have access to the resources they need. After ALL of their hard work and dedication, they do NOT deserve that.
On July 8, Harvard and MIT decided to sue the Trump Administration for allowing the implementation of this cruel policy. Several schools, such as Berkeley and Harvard, have also implemented a “one-person course” so that international students can stay, but there are high chances that ICE will see past this. The policy made by ICE is directly impacting our students and if we implement it, there is still a huge possibility that international students will have to be deported through the semester if we are shifted to fully online.
This policy also affects people whose universities have in-person classes because many teachers are deciding to move their classes online, making it harder for many students to obtain a class “in-person.” Another problem with this requirement is that there can be many health risks due to the unpredictable path of COVID-19. If classes are all shifted online, an in-person class increases the risk of students and faculty catching the virus, which can lead to a potential spike.
How is that fair or even human of us to do? How can WE, as a university, leave behind CRUCIAL members of our pack during this time?
On July 8 at 11:00 am, there was a town hall meeting with the Office of International Services (OIS). The issues were vaguely discussed and no plan of action or decision was made. The international students were later informed of the new policy of allowing students to have more online courses, if at least one is in person. This situation however, is too crucial to not be put as one of our TOP priorities as an institution.
Chancellor Randy Woodson also released a statement later on July 8th, talking about NC State’s plan to operate in a hybrid status in the fall, meeting the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) requirements. We are happy to see that there is a plan of action, but there was not anything addressed about what the university will do if we have to shift fully online.
Many universities have released statements standing by their students in a potentially fully online semester. Many universities have also created a new one-credit course, with optional attendance, for international students, to fulfill this requirement and not cause a course overload. This will allow all international students to have that component they need, as well as a less course overload.
With classes beginning in a month I, along with the rest of the student body at NCSU, DEMAND that our university releases a statement and a FULL plan of action to show how they will work to protect and support their international students during this time.
It is outrageous to think that there is a possibility that all of our international students, the ones who MAKE the Wolfpack who we are, could face deportation. The job of our university is to protect and provide for ALL of our students. Our international students are currently under immense stress with numerous “what if’s” and we need to protect and provide for them.
We need to have a solid backup plan, in the case that all classes may have to be shifted online. With COVID-19 being very unpredictable, all students and parents need to be reassured. We need a CLEAR statement that addresses and demonstrates the plans NC State has to avoid any conflicts throughout the semester, to reassure our international families.
Below I have attached a petition to sign and share, that demands NCSU to take action. Please also feel free to use this petition and email the heads of all departments at NCSU and demand a change.
International students, WE stand with you and we are in this fight with you. You are all such a huge part of our university and our community and we are in this with you guys every step of the way. THANK YOU!
Rani Madhiwala is a senior at NC State majoring in Business Administration and International Studies