Havard, MIT sue Trump administration over online-only instruction for foreign students

United state president Donald Trump
Emeh Joy

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday sued the Trump administration on Wednesday over its instructions not to allow international students to take online-only courses in the US this fall semester.

Harvard had made the announcement earlier this week that all course instruction would be delivered online, including courses for students living on campus.

In a statement released to CNN, the university said the guidance from Trump's administration would affect an estimated 5,000 international students.

The Havard University President, Larry Bacow said, "The order came down without notice- its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness.

"It appears that it was designed purposely to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors and others".

Visa requirements for international students have been strict, especially recently and coming to the US to take online-only courses has also been prohibited.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement did maintain the prohibition in its guidance while offering some flexibility for hybrid models, i.e. a combination of online and in-person classes.

The agency suggested that students who are currently enrolled in the US should consider other alternatives, such as transferring to schools with in-person instruction.

In a FAQ released by the agency, the Department of Homeland Security stated that foreign students who are "scheduled to study at a U.S. institution in the fall would be able to do so, though some will be required to study from abroad if their presence is not required for any in-person classes in the United States".

The lawsuit which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts seeks to obstruct the guidance stating that it violates the Administrative Procedures Act.

The universities further reasoned that ICE'S decision not to provide an exemption for online-only courses puts them in an" untenable situation" of either proceeding with their plans to operate largely or wholly online or attempt to offer in-person training.

The lawsuit also highlighted the challenge this new directive would pose for the students.

"Just weeks from the start of then fall semester, these students are largely unable to transfer to universities providing on-campus instruction, notwithstanding ICE's suggestion that they might do so to avoid removal from the country".

It further read, "Moreover, for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive and/or dangerous".

Currently, there are more than 1 million international students in the U.S.

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