By Nandika Handa
Ever since the pandemic hit most schools have built a system whereby students have been taking their courses online, keeping in mind the safety of students and teachers alike. The educational system has coped with a lot and come up with ways to engage and educate international students vastly online in the face of this pandemic. Normally, under U.S law international students are not allowed to take their course load fully online, in fact, under the law they are not permitted to take more than one course at a time in the online mode.
However, due to the pandemic, they were exempted from the requirement of attending school onsite. The U. S government exempted international students from these requirements and students began adjusting to the new normal. Both students and faculty alike, have displayed a great amount of resilience and have done a commendable job at coming up with solutions aligned to this situation.
Just as the academic community was adjusting to the new normal, their world was shattered by the declaration by I.C.E that international students would not be exempt from attending school on site, and if they wished to do so, students were faced with the prospect of exiting the U.S.
Those who had exited and returned home to due to the pandemic and were learning online, felt the need to go back and attend classes on-site or possibly lose their status or fall behind in their studies.
Students conferred with their schools and their whole world was turned around in a manner that seemed surreal under the circumstances. Seniors felt particularly vulnerable at the thought of losing out on their O.P. T if they did not return.
The day after what was perceived as a harsh declaration by I.C.E, a press release was issued which stated that the U.S would welcome international students. This almost seemed like an afterthought to placate an already irate and somewhat helpless community.
The whole situation seemed insurmountable until there was a ray of hope when Harvard and M.I.T both sued the U.S government and arguments proved strong at the hearings.
This move by I.C.E proved to be a hurdle to universities which rely heavily on international students especially with regard to the fee they bring in. At the same time, it seemed to strip the students of what can be perceived as their right, having paid a hefty fee to be there.
The lawsuit was then conjoined by at least eight more. Johns Hopkins and 20 other colleges in Washington, Arizona and California followed and sued too.
At the very beginning of the argument in the Harvard and MIT case, Judge Allison Burroughs announced“I have been informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution,” and then added, “They will return to the status quo.”
This announcement means that the non-exemption as declared by I.C.E does not hold good anymore and stands rescinded. International students will be exempt from physical attendance requirements as stated in the declaration of non-exemption by I.C.E, and they can resume taking their programmes online.
Last month, the Supreme Court had also negated the plan to defer the much talked about DACA subject. That decision, along with this latest development might help in re-building “Faith in The System” that everyone talks about, as far as the U.S.A is concerned in another wise gloomy time for all those trying to build a future there.
The developments on Tuesday, the 14th of July have served to somewhat ease the predicament that most international students found themselves in.
Students are now able to plan their studies and course work online as was previously the case after the pandemic hit. Those who found themselves in a bind and felt “forced” to go back to campus despite their best efforts and a tremendous show of resilience in adjusting to this new normal – can now focus their attention on what is required. Making progress with their studies and carrying on with their lives even in the face of what has been possibly one of the most devastating and tumultuous times, rife with changes and uncertainty for international students in the USA.
(The author is an Independent Immigration Consultant. Views are personal.)