EDITORIAL: Marquette must protect international students’ education, proactively plan for fall

Marquette University announced it would be laying off approximately 300 faculty and staff. Marquette Wire stock photo

Marquette University announced it would be laying off approximately 300 faculty and staff. Marquette Wire stock photo

With the possibility that classes could go completely online this fall semester due to COVID-19 related uncertainty, Marquette University must develop protections for its international students given the new Department of Homeland Security guidelines that threaten student visas. 

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency part of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a July 6 news release that nonimmigrant students with either a F-1 or M-1 visa may not stay in the United States if they will be attending colleges that are conducting courses completely online this fall semester.

International students with a F-1 visa can attend academic schools like accredited universities and colleges and students with a M-1 visa can attend technical or vocational schools in the U.S.

Usually, F-1 students can remain in the U.S. up to 60 days after completion of their studies and M-1 students can remain up to 30 days after the completion of their studies unless they seek action to maintain their legal status.

The U.S. Department of State issued 364, 204 F-1 visas and 9,227 M-1 visas in 2019.

ICE said that F-1 students taking all courses in-person or taking a hybrid model of in-person and online classes will be able to remain in the U.S. F-1 students following a hybrid model will be allowed to take more than one course online, and schools must certify that the program is not entirely online. Regular ICE guidelines mandate that students with these visas may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours of online classes, so with a hybrid model they would be able to take more than one online course. 

Unlike several universities across the nation that have announced all classes will be conducted online this coming semester, Marquette plans to follow a hybrid model of both in-person and online classes. 

The university announced in a July 9 news release that international students will maintain their F-1 status if they will be taking in-person classes while still being able to take some online classes. 

The university must ensure that all international students can stay at Marquette, especially as the increase in COVID-19 cases in both the state and Milwaukee County could change Marquette’s plan to follow a hybrid model for classes. 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the state of Wisconsin has a cumulative total of 36,448 reported COVID-19 cases and Milwaukee County has a cumulative total of 13,928 reported COVID-19 cases as of July 12. Reported COVID-19 cases are increasing in both areas. 

If cases continue to increase in the Milwaukee area, holding in-person classes may not be a safe or viable option for students, faculty or staff, as increased personal contact could increase the COVID-19 spread. 

Moving all classes online for the semester could jeopardize international students’ ability to stay in the U.S. 

According to Marquette’s Office of Institutional Research and Analysis, nearly 500 international students were enrolled in undergraduate or graduate courses during the fall 2019 semester. 

International students’ education at Marquette must not be threatened due to a lack of proactive planning by the university.  

If international students are unable to take in-person classes, they will no longer be able to stay in the U.S.

Marquette University said it is against any decision that limits access to higher education in the U.S. and agrees with the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities’ statement calling upon Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf to withdraw the new guidelines for F-1 students.

If the university truly believes this, it must accommodate international students more proactively because words aren’t enough.

The university must develop numerous viable options for the uncertain future in order to protect international students at Marquette and ensure that they will be able to continue their education while still living in the U.S.

Stanford University and Yale University faculty have reportedly offered to meet in-person with international students so that they could continue their education and remain in the U.S. 

Marquette could possibly do something similar if all courses were to go online by offering an in-person class for only international students so that they can continue their education while meeting the new guidelines. 

Marquette College Democrats started a petition calling upon the university to host a class for international students that meets in-person once during the fall semester. 

The petition specifically is asking for “University and President Michael Lovell to create a three credit, credit-no-credit class, that meets once a semester, as well as excused absences in this course, until this (new) policy is reversed or struck down.”

With over 4,100 signatures, it is clear that international students are not the only ones concerned about how COVID-19 could impact their education and visa status.

As schools like Marquette start to finalize their plans for the fall semester, they must ensure that faculty, staff and students are brought safely back to campus while still prioritizing students’ education.

Universities like Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that have announced they will hold all classes online for the fall semester are suing the Trump administration for the new policy that forces international students to choose between continuing their education or threatening their health and safety.

As the university continues to plan for students returning to campus in the fall under new health guidelines and safety measures, it is essential that these plans also protect international students’ education.

 


 

Editorial topics by the Marquette Wire are decided at weekly meetings between members of the executive board. The editorial is crafted with leadership by the executive opinions editor. The executive board consists of the executive director of the Wire, managing editor of the Marquette Tribune, managing editor of the Marquette Journal, general manager of MUTV, general manager of MUR and nine additional top editors across the organization.