Response to Recently Announced ICE Restrictions

July 07, 2020

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:
I’ve just announced Columbia’s approach to reopening in the fall. I also want to address a specific group of students, our international students, whose lives have been particularly disrupted by COVID-19—and who are now the subject of a deeply misguided new decision by the U.S. government.
Yesterday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provided notice of federal rules that will require international students with F visas to leave the United States if their course of study is entirely online. International students enrolled in hybrid programs providing a mix of in-person and online classes will retain their visas only if they take the minimum number of online classes needed for normal progress in their degree program. Together, these changes mark a devastating reversal of federal policy announced at the onset of the pandemic.
Last week, I pledged to oppose restrictive immigration policies impeding the entry of international faculty, physicians, and research scholars into the U.S. Today, I repeat that pledge. The destructive and indefensible purpose driving these policies is by now all too familiar, as is the resulting damage to the nation’s academic institutions. I will not belabor these points, beyond calling on all of us to remain focused on the ways in which punitive immigration policies severely disrupt and cause enormous harm to the lives of the international students who are part of our Columbia family. With this in mind, there are three important courses of action for us to pursue in the wake of yesterday’s announcement.
First, as the University and each of our deans continue to make decisions about the structure of course offerings for the coming academic year, we must endeavor to configure hybrid classes providing in-person and remote learning options that alleviate the negative effect of these new regulations on Columbia students; we want our international students to be able to complete their studies here, if at all possible. Second, for the large community of international students who cannot come to Columbia because of the pandemic, we will be adapting our network of Columbia Global Centers and creating Pop-Up Global Centers in new locations to provide in-person academic and peer engagement. And, third, as I stated last week, we must continue to vigorously oppose immigration policies that damage Columbia, higher education, the national interest, and the international students, researchers, and faculty who immeasurably enrich our institution and the intellectual and personal experiences of each of us.
We are continuing to consider the implications of yesterday’s announcement and will be providing additional guidance. The International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) is a wonderful resource for all of our international students—should you have any additional questions or concerns, please reach out to Associate Provost David Austell ([email protected]), or Associate Director Samantha Lu ([email protected]).
Lee C. Bollinger