Statement in Support of International Students
Dear Santa Clara University Community,
Our University is blessed and enriched by the international students who are drawn to our Silicon Valley location and our world-class offerings in theology, STEM, business, law, and humanities. So we were deeply pained to learn of the July 6 Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) modifications that drastically limit the ability of international students to join their classmates in taking classes remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. These sudden and ill-conceived changes, effective for the fall 2020 term, prohibit international students from entering or residing in the United States if they take their courses fully online. Instead, they must either enroll in at least one in-person course or be forced to transfer institutions or leave the country altogether.
We write to convey the University’s strong opposition to this unjust guidance, and our unwavering commitment to our international students. Santa Clara University will pursue all means at our disposal to protect them, including joining with other institutions to challenge the changes in court and working out curricular options for our international students.
This harmful new guidance requires international students to put their health and academic progress at risk if they cannot attend classes in person. It incongruously reverses previous recent guidance that acknowledged the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic—challenges which still remain. It imposes immense financial hardship on some international students who may be forced to leave the U.S. in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has severely restricted travel across international borders. And it imposes these changes on universities already reeling from the impact of the global pandemic, in disregard to public health, and under a burdensome one-week implementation timeline.
In staunch support of our international students, Santa Clara University is taking a formal stand against the recent SEVP guidance with several actions:
- Today, we joined other universities on the West Coast as a party to a legal action in federal court seeking an immediate injunction against the guidance.
- Last week, we joined as a signatory on an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in federal court in support of the July 10 suit brought by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and many other colleges and universities opposing the guidance.
- We are also signatory to letters issued by American Council on Education (ACE), Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) and Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), urging the Department of Homeland Security to withdraw the SEVP guidance.
- We have signed on to the amicus brief to support California suits from the California Attorney General and University of California challenging the SEVP guidance.
- We have reached out to local members of Congress in support of their efforts to seek needed flexibility for our international students during the global pandemic.
In addition to actively voicing our dissent through our leadership and legal actions, our Global Engagement team has reached out directly to our international students, holding town halls, and responding to students and families. Previously, our graduate programs had planned to offer online-only curricula for fall 2020. Global Engagement is working with the deans in our graduate areas across the university to implement a hybrid structure of courses for fall 2020 to enable our international students to enroll in an in-person course.
We are grateful to so many faculty and staff across campus who have joined us in supporting our international students. To our international students we say: You are valued members of our community. You are welcome here. You belong. We stand with you.
Kevin F. O'Brien, S.J.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs