International Students
Numerous universities, including Harvard and M.I.T., have long valued their international students for bringing diverse global backgrounds onto their campuses. However, in July 2020, the Trump administration made a shocking decision to ban international students from residing in the United States if universities moved their fall semester classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Affected students have strongly opposed this ruling, as many come from underdeveloped countries and are searching for a better life. Many universities, including Harvard and M.I.T., have instituted policies to create a safe haven for these students from lower-income families and third-world countries amid the national ban.

The Cause of the Lawsuit Against the Trump Administration

After the ban was announced, Harvard and M.I.T. filed a lawsuit on the Trump administration for violating the Administrative Procedure Act. This act states that in times of emergency, international students can take more than one online course without facing penalties. However, the Trump administration has failed to be specific about declaring this pandemic as an “emergency situation”. As of now, this means that over 1 million international students who are taking online classes are subject to deportation.

Stories From International Students

Many international students feel that this policy will impair both their safety and their learning environments. For example, Valerie Mandela, a student at Harvard University, comes from a high-risk population in Mexico and is confused about what these policies will mean for international students like her.

“…where should I go exactly? Like my parents’ house? My parents are from a high-risk population. Where exactly are we supposed to go?” Valerie, along with numerous other students, feels frustration towards these policies.

“I can’t go back to Venezuela. There are no flights there. It is a very, very unsafe situation. It would put me at risk. It would put 8,000 Venezuelans under F-1 at risk. It would put thousands of other people who are from countries that are currently under humanitarian crisis…[at risk].” Raul Romero, a student at Kenyon College, also feels disadvantaged given the United States’ stance on international students and its immigration policies.

The Harvard Crimson recently had the opportunity to interview international students from disadvantaged communities. Student 3, an anonymous name given to protect the privacy of this student, is from Kashmir and claimed to study abroad to escape the violence of their home country.

“‘If I return to my parents’ home in Kashmir, I will not have consistent access to the Internet that can support high-quality video conference calls’, Student 3 wrote.”

Similarly, a Harvard medical student from Ethiopia would have to defer for a year because of inadequate internet access and a differing time zone. In fact, over 1,000 Harvard students hold F-1 visas from countries with restricted internet, such as Ethiopia. Student 2, from Lebanon, also states that their country is experiencing one of its worst economic crises and access to the internet would be nearly impossible due to the political climate. Another Harvard student from Hungary also feels unsafe returning back to their country due to a lack of LGBTQ rights and health insurance. Meanwhile, a student from South Africa also faces potential struggles such as poor electricity, differing time zones and lack of internet access.

Justice is Given to International Students

As multiple students have come forward with their concerns about I.C.E’s policies, the Trump administration has overturned the restrictions over online curriculums for its international students. Harvard, along with many other universities, considers this a major victory, as it assures international students the right to study in the United States amid the implementation of distance learning in the upcoming fall. After a long legal battle against the Trump administration, international students have obtained justice.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Unsplash

Despite having occurred nearly two months ago, Hurricane Maria, a category five hurricane, wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, with relief efforts unable to catch up with the severity of the storm. In the day after the storm, the entire island had lost power, five percent of the island had cell service and only 40 percent of gas stations were equipped with supplies. Forty-five days later, only 41 percent of the island has power, 92 percent has cell service and 84 percent of gas stations are up and running.

The catastrophic nature of the storm has also had implications for education. Three weeks after the storm, nearly half of all primary and secondary schools on the island remained closed. College students, too, have been displaced by the storm, making it impossible for them to gain access to education on the island. However, U.S. colleges have sought to ameliorate this problem by providing education to Puerto Rican students for the Spring 2018 semester.

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria, some students had already started classes by rerouting themselves to Florida, where tuition discounts were being offered to those whose home institutions were unable to reopen. For Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Islands students, the State University of New York system, which includes schools like Binghamton, Purchase and Geneseo, made the decision to reduce their tuition to the rate of New York state residents. Rather than pay nearly $40,000 a year to attend, student rates would be approximately $25,000, leaving more fluidity for family assets to go toward home reparation, water access, etc.

Other large U.S. universities have also offered to provide education to Puerto Rican students starting in the spring. Tulane University, Brown University, Cornell University and New York University each have opened their doors to students from Puerto Rico. New York University will provide 50 students with free tuition, housing, health insurance and a meal plan for the spring semester. Tulane opened its doors to Puerto Rican students tuition-free. Cornell offered up to 58 students from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) free tuition, room and board. Finally, Brown University shared that they would offer similar amenities plus assistance with travel to students at UPR.

Liberal arts colleges, too, have offered Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Islands students the opportunity to attend for the spring semester. Amherst College—one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation—has offered to cover tuition and fees, room and board, books, transportation, health insurance and students’ spring tuition at their home institutions. Though their program is similar to that offered by other institutions, Amherst’s is unique by paying the students’ home schools for their missed semesters so as not to financially detriment them, as well.

In looking to provide education to Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricane Maria, these programs will manage to accommodate a wide number of students who may otherwise not be able to gain access to education for the spring semester. With continued support to the island nation, by the end of the year, education to Puerto Rican students of all ages will be back on track.

– Emily Chazen

Photo: Flickr