Berkeley students, Johns Hopkins plot ways to keep international students in US

Reacting to the ICE ruling that looks to send international students to their home countries if they cannot attend in-person classes, universities have voiced support for international students.

Students at the University of California-Berkeley are considering the creation of a course that would take place on campus and provide a way for students to remain in the U.S.

In response to recently announced restrictions regarding international students, students at the University of California- Berkeley have suggested that the school create a course with the sole purpose of keeping impacted students in the United States. 

Protesting the ruling announced by ICE’s Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP), which requires international students to return to their home countries if they are taking a fully online course load during the fall 2020 semester, a Facebook user proposed that Berkeley assemble a one-credit class held outside with COVID-19 safety restrictions. The writer later updated the post to say that a faculty member had been identified to assist with the project, and indicated that a syllabus was also in the works. 

A Berkeley student shared the Facebook post to Twitter with a since-deleted message, which was archived by Google. The Twitter user who shared the post self identifies as a “Cal Urban Studies” student. 

“Berkeley students are creating a 1-unit, in-person, student-run class to help international students avoid deportation due to the new ICE regulations. love my school sometimes,” the message stated.

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The Facebook user suggested running the course as a “decal,” presumably under the DeCal Program offered by Berkeley, in which students have the opportunity to design their own classes that may not be provided through the traditional curriculum. Students act as the instructors, according to the program’s website, but as long as a faculty member sponsors the class, the university considers it legitimate. 

Fox News reported that academics associated with Berkeley are supportive of the plan. UC-Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor of Communications Dan Mogulof told Campus Reform Wednesday that “the campus administration has no connection to the DeCal program” and referred additional questions to the student facilitator. 

In an email following the initial publication of this story and after his original comment to Campus Reform, Mogolof said, “a decision has been made not to allow any of the Decal courses to be taught in person,” adding that “they will have to be entirely online.” Mogulof said that according to the provost’s office, where the decision was made, the determination was made “last week.” 

The proposal comes amid a wave of support for international students, as universities across America have criticized the ICE announcement. 

[RELATED: ICE tells foreign students attending US schools online to go home]

Mogulof included UC-Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ’s message to students regarding the action to require that international students living in the U.S. take in-person classes while in the country. 

”These requirements run counter to our values of being an inclusive community and one that has a long tradition of welcoming international students from around the globe. International students enrich campus life immeasurably, through their participation in classes, research collaborations and extracurricular activities,” Christ said.

”We will explore all of our options, legal and otherwise, to counter the deleterious effects of these policies that impact the ability for international students to achieve their academic goals. It is not only important for UC Berkeley but for all of higher education across the U.S. to take every step possible to mitigate these policies that send a message of exclusion to our international community of scholars. We will partner with our professional associations to advocate for sound legislation that continues to support international educational exchange,” she added.

The Association of American Universities also released a statement describing the policy as “immensely misguided and deeply cruel to the tens of thousands of international students who come to the United States every year” and urging “the administration to rescind this guidance and provide temporary flexibility to permit international students to participate in the range of in-person, online, and hybrid instruction that institutions are implementing in light of the pandemic and their local conditions.” 

The University of Pennsylvania told the Daily Pennsylvanian that it is “deeply disappointed by the most recent announcement that the federal government will not extend the online course maximum waiver that it put into place this spring. The educational requirements for international students should be the same as for domestic students – not higher or different in any way.”

Vice Provost for Global Affairs at the University of Illinois-Chicago Neal McCrillis said the ruling “hurts us, our institution, and it hurts our students.” UIC promised to review the new guidance and reach out to impacted students as soon as possible, the Chicago Sun Times reported

The University of Pittsburgh wrote on Twitter that the policy is “misguided, unfair, harmful to higher education across the United States, and damaging to both regional and national economies.” 


“Requiring international students to maintain in person instruction or leave the country, irrespective of their own health issues or even a government-mandated shutdown of New York City, is just plain wrong and needlessly rigid,” New York University wrote in a statement. “If there were a moment for flexibility in delivering education, this would be it.” 

Many schools are still determining how they can counter the ICE restrictions, but like Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University has formulated plans for course offerings, telling students in an email message obtained by Campus Reform that the school will be providing a series of in-person classes in order to help students maintain their visa requirements. The email listed six courses that have been made available so far. 

Harvard has promised to work with other universities to “chart a path forward.” 

“We must do all that we can to ensure that our students can continue their studies without fear of being forced to leave the country mid-way through the year, disrupting their academic progress and undermining the commitments—and sacrifices—that many of them have made to advance their education,” Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow said. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mariatcopeland