The Trump administration has rescinded a rule that would have required international students across the United States to take in-person classes this fall or face possible deportation.

The decision was announced July 14 at the start of a hearing into a federal lawsuit brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that sought to block the directive announced July 6 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The University of Michigan had joined 58 other universities this week in signing onto an amicus brief filed July 12 in support of the lawsuit by Harvard and MIT.

The July 6 Homeland Security directive would have prohibited international students from continuing their education at U.S. universities if those universities offer only online education.

While U-M has announced plans to offer a hybrid fall semester consisting of in-person and remotely delivered classes, the directive had created chaos for international students as they plan to return to U-M and other campuses.

The amicus brief says, in part, that international students are a vital part of the scholarly communities at U.S. universities “and their participation in academic life enhances the educational experience for all.

“The July 6 directive will inevitably force some international students to withdraw from our colleges and universities. In all cases — and in addition to the tremendous harm this will do to these students — our universities and our society will suffer.”

Also joining in a separate brief in support of the lawsuit was U-M’s Rackham Student Government, which teamed up with graduate student government organizations from more than a dozen other universities to help halt implementation of the new rule.

In an email message sent July 13 to all U-M international students, Interim Provost Susan M. Collins said, “I write to let you know of the university’s strong support for you, as we all learn about the recently released government guidance for international students studying in the U.S.

“This misguided and cruel policy unnecessarily exacerbates the challenges you face in an already uncertain and difficult context. Please know that we care deeply about your wellbeing, and are working hard to get the policy rescinded.”

Collins continued, “The guidance, which prohibits international students with F-1 visas in the U.S. from taking only courses that are offered remotely, requires that some of your course work be taught in person. I know, too, that some of you will not be able to come to campus in the fall, due to consular closures that delay visa issuance and travel restrictions. We are eager to have you join us in Ann Arbor as soon as circumstances allow you to come.

“I want to assure you of the university’s deep commitment to your success as a Michigan student. The university has a long history of welcoming students and faculty from around the world. We recognize that a wide range of ideas, experiences, and backgrounds is essential to education and to scholarship.

“We value the many contributions you make to our mission of advancing knowledge and contributing to the future and are deeply concerned that the Department of Homeland Security guidance will disrupt the learning of all who are part of our community.”

Note: This article has been updated to reflect the U.S. government’s decision to rescind its earlier rule.
James Iseler of The University Record contributed to this article.

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