UO Fights to Keep International Students In-State, Proposes Solutions to Learning Restrictions

Jul 13, 2020


The University of Oregon campus during the coronavirus pandemic shutdown in April (file photo).
Credit Elizabeth Gabriel / KLCC News

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released a draft of new rules that restrict international students from taking all of their classes online. If they do, these students could risk deportation. Now, colleges and universities across the country, including the UO, are helping international students register for at least one in-person class so they can maintain their international student visa.

Dennis Galvan, Dean and Vice Provost for the Division of Global Engagement, said International students are a vital part of the community.

“They add to the richness of our research, they bring in top talent, they bring in global perspectives, they bring in other cultures and religions, and ways of seeing the world that are so valuable to every student,” said Galvan. 

“They help a domestic student have an education that's more global—very important for the world we live in. We can better address all our challenges, like global pandemics, if we can learn from each other and be in each other's presence,” said Galvan.

On Friday, the UO, Oregon State University, and Western Oregon University joined 177 other institutions in filing an amicus brief in support of Harvard and MIT’s legal complaint against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in an attempt to rescind ICE’s proposed guidelines.

“We consider the move by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to be outrageous, to be unreasonable targeting of a subpopulation of students,” said Galvan. “We think of this as a completely unnecessary targeting of a certain population for no good public health, no good educational reason. And that's why we're fighting it.”

Galvan said the UO is working to provide a variety of options for its roughly 1,100 international students, such as a hybrid class—which includes in-person and online instruction days, online classes.

The UO has also announced a new one-credit, in-person course that will be tuition free. According to the UO website, the Success in Online Learning course will help students with online learning skills. 

But there is a concern that the campus may be forced to close mid-term like it did in the spring. And if it does, Galvan said the draft rule requires a university to notify ICE of any changes to its mode of instruction.

Galvan said the UO is working to keep students at the UO.

“We're confident that we'll be able to continue a form of in-person instruction for these students so that they will not fall out of the bounds of these rules,” said Galvan. “That they will be able to stay with us, stay in visa status, make progress on their academic program, and do it in a way that is compliant with public health requirements and safety, which is extremely important to us.”

If international students are forced to leave the United States, there will be an alternate plan for accessing UO classes.

This fall, the UO will launch its No Passport Needed program, which will provide online instruction for the quarter of international UO students Galvan said are already out of the country and will not be able to return to the UO this year. The UO will work to contract advisors so students can have meetings with someone in their home country, as well as remote internships and internships in their home country when possible.

The university will also provide remote homestays for international students to help provide the experience of living in another county.

“Remote homestay is kind of an interesting contradiction in terms almost,” said Galvan. “You're not living with a family, but you’re spending time with them at tea time, at a backyard barbecue—a regular weekly, or daily engagement with a family.”

In partnership with the Eugene organization Friendship Foundation for International Students, the UO will help students practice speaking English. In the English Around the World program, international students will also be able to virtually practice speaking English with students at the university’s study abroad program in London, as well as with a career advisor who is an alumni in Singapore or Hong Kong.

ICE is expected to announce its final visa and school restrictions for international students within the next few days.