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Supporting Our International Students, July 8, 2020

Dear students, staff and faculty:

Earlier this week, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued guidance regarding international students that is both stunningly cruel and xenophobic. Under the new regulations, international students will be barred from returning to or remaining in the United States if their academic courses are only offered online. In addition, students who are unable to return to campus may be penalized by having their visa status revoked, severely impeding their potential to work in the United States after graduation.

The Trump administration promulgated this abrupt guidance—a reversal of rules that had been in place before the outbreak of COVID-19—just as many colleges, Smith among them, were adapting their curricula to incorporate remote instruction. The intent of the regulations is clearly political—to pressure colleges and universities to prioritize in-person instruction despite the need for strict physical distancing.

To our international students, who have already been targeted by this administration’s capricious and confusing travel and visa restrictions, I want to assure you in the strongest terms: you are valued members of the Smith community, and we will do everything we can within the law to ensure you can complete your Smith education. You belong here, and we will fight for you.

Associate Dean for International Students and Scholars Caitlin Szymkowicz, Dean for International Study Rebecca Hovey and Dean of the College Baishakhi Taylor are working urgently, in concert with colleagues throughout higher education, to understand the absolute limitations of these new regulations and determine the best course of action for our new and continuing international students. In keeping with recent patterns of administration guidance around immigration, it is possible the rules might change in the coming days and weeks. We will monitor developments actively and closely.

As a member of the President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, I will advocate with our state and federal legislators to reverse this new policy. I am heartened to see that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy has announced plans to sue the Trump administration on behalf of our state’s thousands of international students. Smith will add its voice to these and other actions.

Smith College has a long and proud history of welcoming students and scholars from around the world. I will continue to oppose any measures that threaten international students and scholars. At a time when we need to care for one another more than ever, Smith remains deeply committed to protecting and supporting every member of our community.


Kathleen McCartney