Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday sued the Trump administration over its guidance not allowing foreign students to take online-only courses this fall semester.
Harvard announced earlier this week that all course instruction will be delivered online, including for students living on-campus. In a statement provided to CNN, the university said the guidance stands to affect approximately 5,000 international students.
“The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. It appears that it was designed purposefully 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,” Harvard President Larry Bacow said in a statement. “This comes at a time when the United States has been setting daily records for the number of new infections, with more than 300,000 new cases reported since July 1.”
MIT president L. Rafael Reif said in a statement that the measure "disrupts our international students’ lives and jeopardizes their academic and research pursuits."
"Our international students now have many questions – about their visas, their health, their families and their ability to continue working toward an MIT degree. Unspoken, but unmistakable, is one more question: Am I welcome? At MIT, the answer, unequivocally, is yes," Reif continued.
Some background: Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that international students who are pursuing degrees in the United States will have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only courses.
Visa requirements for students have always been strict and coming to the US to take online-only courses has been prohibited. ICE maintained that prohibition in its guidance, while providing some flexibility for hybrid models, meaning a mix of online and in-person classes.
In an FAQ published by the agency, the Department of Homeland Security reasoned that “all students scheduled to study at a US institution in the fall will 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, filed in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, seeks to block the directive, arguing it violates the Administrative Procedures Act.