KU condemns new federal rules on international student visas as ‘truly mean-spirited’

photo by: Mike Yoder/Journal-World File Photo

University of Kansas students visit and pass between classes outside of Wescoe Hall and across Jayhawk Boulevard from Strong Hall on Friday, Feb. 6, 2015.

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod on Wednesday issued a strong condemnation of new federal regulations on international student visas that bar those students from staying in the United States if their educational institution doesn’t hold in-person classes in the fall semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials issued regulations dictating that if international students are to remain in the United States, their enrollment will need to have an in-person component — a measure that critics across the nation say puts added pressure on universities to reopen amid a global public health crisis.

Girod, in a written message to campus, called the new policy “truly mean-spirited and unworkable.”

“To put it plainly, blocking and possibly expelling international students in the middle of their studies is inhumane, serves no one’s interests, and would set back the United States’ ability to attract the brightest minds to study here,” he said.

Since KU is planning a fall semester with at least some in-person components, it’s not likely the current regulations would affect the university’s roughly 2,000 international students. The situation becomes murkier, though, if the COVID-19 pandemic would again force KU into a remote-only operation, as it did to conclude the spring semester.

“This new policy is also likely to further damage our nation’s universities, which are already struggling with unprecedented uncertainty and financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Girod said.

KU’s congressional lobbyist is working on the issue and is in touch with members of Kansas’ federal delegation in Washington, D.C., Girod said. The chancellor also mentioned a lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning, by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology against ICE and the Department of Homeland Security regarding the new regulations. It wasn’t clear whether KU was planning any similar action.

The policy, Girod said, demonstrates further the importance for KU to return to some form of in-person instruction in the fall semester — which is set to begin Aug. 24.

“…We continue our planning to reopen campus to the greatest extent possible while maintaining health and safety as our top priority,” Girod said. “We will stand firm against federal pressure that in any way compromises that priority.”

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