Many of us on campus are expressing concern, fear and anger over this week’s guidance issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that jeopardizes our international students’ abilities to stay in this country if classes move fully online due to COVID-19.
I want to assure our community that we will do everything possible to support our international students and to advocate for a change to this rule. St. Thomas stands in solidarity with our international students, who are an integral part of our St. Thomas community. Our international students and faculty enrich our entire university, and their diverse backgrounds, expertise, scholarship and life experiences enhance the learning experience for everyone at St. Thomas.
Currently, we are working with the deans and the Office of Academic Affairs to ensure that our international students have access to sufficient in-person and hybrid courses this fall to maintain their visa status. We are also making direct appeals to congressional members, supporting our professional associations who likely will be mounting legal challenges to the order, and participating in the lobbying efforts of our member organizations such as the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Minnesota Private College Council, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
In the meantime, our deans, the Office of Academic Affairs and administrators are currently working with our Office of Global Learning and Strategy to ensure our international students have the resources they need as they plan for the upcoming fall semester. The Office of International Students and Scholars conducted a town hall meeting yesterday with international students to help them get this support. Students who need additional support and have questions should reach out to our senior international officer, Dr. Tim Lewis, or the Office of International Students and Scholars.
Please keep our international students, faculty and their families in your prayers as we work to improve this situation. We will continue to keep you updated on what we learn and any progress toward resolving this matter.