Columbia embroiled in controversy over alleged fraud in foreign students program

Yocasta Brens, former Director of the Office of International Students and Scholars at Columbia’s Teachers College, recently filed a lawsuit against the university for the alleged fraud.

Columbia Teachers College’s Director of Media Relations, Patricia Lamiell, told Campus Reform that '[t]hese claims have no merit.'

Columbia University is currently under fire for alleged fraud within its foreign student program.

Yocasta Brens, former Director of the Office of International Students and Scholars at Columbia’s Teachers College, recently filed a lawsuit against the university for the alleged fraud.

The suit accuses the Teachers College of telling Brens and fellow staff members to “process immigration documents on behalf of a group of potential students from South Africa without the necessary documentation, including evidence of funding and full-time engagement in a prescribed program, as required by federal regulations”, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies.

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Brens and colleagues were also allegedly asked to bend the rules from time to time “in order to keep the enrollment of international students at a high level.”

For example, “Teachers College told Brens to certify international students as full-time, when they weren’t, extend immigration documents for those who didn’t qualify, and ignore a lack of proficiency in English,” the New York Post reported.

Brens was subsequently fired for refusing to obey the directives of Teachers College.

Sarah Loicano, Public Affairs Officer at ICE, told Campus Reform “[t]he Student and Exchange Visitor Program takes concerns regarding compliance with SEVP regulations seriously and is currently investigating the allegations.”

Loicano could not provide further details on the lawsuit or allegations, since the investigation is ongoing. 

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Columbia Teachers College’s Director of Media Relations, Patricia Lamiell, told Campus Reform that “[t]hese claims have no merit." 

Laimiell went on to say, "While Teachers College does not comment on personnel decisions or pending litigation, we are confident that our foreign student admissions practices and procedures are consistent with all applicable laws and regulations.”

“We will vigorously defend against these baseless allegations”, she added.

Campus Reform was unable to reach Yocasta Brens for comment.

Campus Reform reached out to all individuals and institutions mentioned in this article and will update accordingly. 

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