BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum has issued the following statement in response to updated guidance from the Department of Homeland Security, which states that international students enrolled in online-only courses of study must leave the U.S.
"Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security issued updated guidance on the visa status of international students enrolled at U.S. universities for the fall 2020 semester. In short, that guidance states that students enrolled in an online-only course of study are ineligible for F-1 status. Students currently residing in the United States whose institutions have announced online-only plans for the fall are required to depart the country (or to transfer to another school). Moreover, students who end up taking a fully online course of study because their institutions change their operational approach in the middle of the semester will likewise be required, at that point, to depart the country.
"At Indiana University, our current plan is to welcome students back to our campuses in August, with a blend of in-person and online instruction. We recognize that many of our international students, particularly those beginning new programs with us, will not be able to arrive to the university in time for the fall semester. We commit to offering them a robust course of study remotely. But most of our international students remained in the U.S. to continue their studies as the COVID-19 pandemic spread, and we are likewise committed to working with them to ensure that their course schedules meet the updated requirements. As always, we will provide all of our international students with the services and support necessary for their academic success.
"While we believe we can avoid disruptive consequences for IU students as a result of this guidance, we are nonetheless dismayed by it. It replaces the far more flexible and reasonable accommodation offered during the spring and summer terms, which allowed international students residing in the U.S. to take a fully online course load as colleges and universities responded to the growing threat of the pandemic.
"Throughout U.S. higher education, planning for the fall 2020 semester is informed by two overarching objectives: to ensure the safety of our communities during the ongoing pandemic, and to help our students continue making progress toward their degrees. If an institution moves to all-online instruction -- whether at the start of the semester or mid-term -- it does so in the belief that it is necessary to serve those goals.
"It is unconscionable to inflict this level of uncertainty on those who have invested their time and trust in U.S. educational institutions, as it would be to force our international students to leave their homes, their classmates and their academic communities because of a university's decision made in the interest of public health and safety. It is particularly unconscionable considering that ongoing travel restrictions and the continued suspension of routine visa issuance for students make a return to the United States far from guaranteed, jeopardizing students' academic degrees should their institutions return to normal operations.
"Indiana University will continue to advocate both individually and with partner institutions for policies that support our international student community."