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Harvard, MIT sue U.S. govt. over directive on student visas

The Maclaurin Building on the MIT campus.AFPJOE RAEDLE

The Maclaurin Building on the MIT campus.AFPJOE RAEDLE  

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said on Wednesday that they had filed a lawsuit against the Donald Trump administration over a directive that would strip foreign students of their visas if their coursework was entirely online.

The White House measure, announced on Monday, was seen as an effort to pressure universities into reopening and abandoning the cautious approaches that many have announced they would adopt to reduce transmission of the virus.

“The order came down without notice — its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness,” Harvard’s president Lawrence S. Bacow said in a message to the university community. “It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others.”

Less number of students

The directive’s effect may be to dramatically reduce the number of international students enrolling in the fall. Together with delays in processing visas as a result of the pandemic, immigrant advocates say the new rules, which must still be finalised this month, might discourage many overseas students from attending U.S. universities, where they often pay full tuition. Such changes could put foreign students’ visas, known as F-1 visas, at risk under the new rules. International students whose universities are not planning in-person classes — which is currently the case at schools including Harvard and the University of Southern California — would be required to return to their home countries if they are already in the United States.

Those overseas would not be granted permission to enter the country to take online coursework here.

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in an interview to CNN that the administration was providing more flexibility for international students than in the past, when they could take only one online course to qualify for visas. Now they can take more, as long as at least some of their instruction is in person.NY Times

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