The Ohio State University and the city of Columbus have thrown their support behind a lawsuit that seeks to pause the Trump administration's ban on international students enrolling in online-only classes this fall.
Under the new federal policy, college students studying the U.S. on F-1 visas would not be permitted to stay in or reenter the country if their school didn't hold in-person classes next semester. Last Monday, Harvard University and MIT filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, calling the restrictions "arbitrary and capricious."
Ohio State signed an amicus brief as part of 180 universities supporting a temporary restraining order against the rule.
"The latest ICE guidance will limit international students’ flexibility. These changes have the potential to create barriers to education for international students in every discipline," wrote Ohio State provost Bruce McPheron and health affairs chancellor Dr. Hal Paz in a joint statement last Thursday. "During a global pandemic, we support the expansion of educational opportunities to allow international students to pursue their studies in the United States, including fully online learning."
Ohio State plans to return to in-person classes for part of the fall semester, while switching to "distance methods" after the Thanksgiving break.
The city of Columbus joined a separate amicus brief, signed by 25 other cities and counties, supporting Harvard and MIT's lawsuit.
"This heartless policy interferes with colleges’ ability to do what’s best for their students, faculty and staff and could lead to universities rushing to reopen despite public health guidance," wrote Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein.
Klein added that universities are making difficult decisions to keep students safe during the coronavirus pandemic, and should be given more flexibility.
“The stated rationale for ICE’s July 9, 2020 directive is to get colleges and universities ‘to reopen’ in the midst of spiking COVID-19 cases across the country," the brief states. “But DHS and ICE have failed to provide any discussion, consideration, or explanation about the harms that will flow from this directive.”