Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

International Students Banned From Online-Only Instruction

Inside Higher Ed, International Students Banned From Online-Only Instruction:

New guidance for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has stoked anger and confusion from studentsfaculty and immigration advocates.

The new temporary final rule, issued Monday afternoon, prohibits international students from returning to or remaining in the United States this fall if the colleges they attend adopt online-only instruction models amid the pandemic.

A growing number of colleges — including Harvard University — have announced that they will reopen their campuses in the fall but conduct classes online. Even with campuses open, international students will be prohibited from studying in the United States under the rule.

“It’s just mean-spirited,” said Allen Orr, president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He noted the myriad logistical issues it poses for international students.

Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink


Sorry, we not gonna import Chinese bubonic plague.

Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. The point is we can’t be fooled again. — GWB

Posted by: Anon | Jul 7, 2020 9:39:29 AM

Neither your headline nor the IHE headline is accurate. International students have not been banned from online-only instruction. They can still participate in the online-only instruction. They just can't do so in the United States. I don't agree with the policy, but I can understand the theory behind it. If it's online-only, with no in-person contact, there's no need for them to be in this country.

Posted by: Steve Bradford | Jul 7, 2020 10:05:36 AM

The piece is factually correct, but did not point out that there is a way around the new ICE rule which could work in many situations. More specifically, even foreign students can learn in a classroom filled with other students (rather than online) while still protecting professors from exposure to the virus.

The new ICE rules are very important now because more and more professors are reluctant, or are even refusing, to interact in person with students this fall because they are a very high risk - because of age and/or medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure - of infection by the coronavirus. As a result, many universities have already promised that such faculty would not be forced to return to the classroom this fall.

Fortunately there appears to be a simple way to protect faculty members who - because of their age and/or various medical problems - refuse to be in a room with students even with masks and social distancing protocols while still not running afoul of the new ICE requirement limiting classes taken online.

A college or university could have most of its students - who are generally young, not in great danger from the virus, and probably willing to accept the small risk - seated in a classroom, presumably separated from each other according to social-distancing standards imposed by governmental requirements or by the school itself.

In a small "broadcast studio" room nearby (which can be thoroughly disinfected, easily and inexpensively, before each use) is the professor, who stands at a podium in front of a blackboard.

His voice and image are captured by a television camera and by a lavaliere [lapel, clip, or similar] wireless microphone in the studio room.

Then his image and voice are displayed on a jumbo television in the larger classroom where the students are assembled, and hopefully eager to begin the class with him.

The transfer of the video and audio information from one room to another nearby could be done by a simple cable, so there is no Internet or other "online" involvement to trigger the ICE requirements.

Indeed, it is the same arrangement often used where the classroom in which the professor is teaching is too small to accommodate all of the students, so that the video and audio are simply "piped into" another auxiliary classroom for additional students.

Alternatively, a separate video camera and lapel microphone, or even a computer-mounted webcam, could be installed in a professor's office to permit him to teach his class remotely to students seared in a nearby classroom.

In this case the transfer from one room to another nearby could likewise be done by a simple cable - or, if necessary, by an internal internet.

In either case there is no Internet or other teaching occurring "online" since there is a clear and well recognized distinction between online teaching over the Internet, and the use of an intranet where the signal is confined to a single building.

This two-room arrangement overcomes a major problem of online instruction because the students are able to see, hear, and otherwise interact directly with each other, and are in each other's presence as they typically are in any classroom - something which they cannot do with online instruction, even if the professor is skilled in operating with Zoom or similar videoconferencing programs.

The professor can see the students over a monitor located in the "broadcast studio" room or in his office, call upon them as required, and respond to any concerns or questions they might have. The students in turn can hear and see the professor on a large screen TV, and perhaps also on additional monitors installed around the classroom if it is very large.

Indeed, they may see him and the blackboard better than they might if social distancing requires the use of much larger classrooms with many students seated far away from the professor, and hear him better than if the professor were wearing a mask, and perhaps even speaking behind a huge plexiglass screen as some universities are now installing.

The sound and image would also be much better than if the students were at home taking the class online, since many professors lack the equipment and/or the skill and experience to produce quality broadcasts from their own homes with their own equipment, especially if their homes have limited bandwidth.

Clearly such an arrangement could not be classified as "online," and therefore subject to ICE restrictions for foreign students, since the Internet is not involved in any way for the students receiving instruction in the classroom. Indeed, it is no different than the well established practice of having an overflow classroom.

Naturally, with such an arrangement, the university could also choose to feed the video and audio signal to students in their homes or day-work offices by using the Internet, but such online instruction would apply only to those students who requested it, and presumably not to those whose visas prohibit them from taking too many classes online, and who would thus be physically present in the classroom.

Using this two-room workaround, colleges and universities could make it possible for foreign students subject to the new ICE requirements to take classes in classrooms and not online, and at the same time not force especially vulnerable faculty to interact with students in a single classroom.

Posted by: LawProf John Banzhaf | Jul 8, 2020 6:59:40 AM

"International Students Ordered to Depart if Enrolled in Online-Only Instruction"
Steve Bradford does have a valid point.

I agree with the policy because:

A) other than the time zone difference, there's no valid need for you to be in the U.S. if all you're doing is taking online classes; and

(I very much hope it's pointed out in court that colleges AREN'T lowering tuition for having 100% online classes -- so why do international students need to be in the U.S.? Clearly they'll get the same experience! Oh the liberal hypocrisy...)

B) I can imagine colleges "admitting" millions of "students" to rake in tuition (there's nearly no additional cost to broadcasting a class to 2,000 students or 50,000 students), as a sham for really just selling/authorizing visas in exchange for tuition money. (Unrealistic? Perhaps.)

Posted by: Anon | Jul 8, 2020 10:52:57 AM


A law suit claims that ICE's new rules will "force many F-1 students to withdraw from Harvard and MIT," and is "an effort by the federal government to force universities to reopen in-person classes."

But regardless of the administration's motives, universities can still protect faculty, as well as students who are at especially high risk of death if they become infected with the coronavirus in a classroom, while at the same time accommodating foreign and other students who are willing to accept the risks of COVID in return for receiving instruction in a classroom with other students.

The new regulations limit the number of "online courses" which many foreign students could take if they wish to come to - or remain in - the United States for their higher education.

While some see the new rules as forcing universities to make a difficult binary choice - either requiring faculty (especially vulnerable ones) to go into classrooms to avoid having too many classes taught online, or protecting faculty by permitting them to teach online and thereby adversely affect foreign students - there is a third option which does not involve online teaching (so it has no effect on foreign students), but also does not force vulnerable faculty to risk infection by teaching in a classroom.

In this regard, many faculty - especially those who are older or have a variety of medical conditions putting them at exceptionally high risk of death from COVID-19 - are refusing to return to classroom teaching this fall, and/or are planning to take legal action under the Americans With Disabilities Act or the Occupational Safety and Health Act to avoid being forced to return to classroom teaching.

Here's how the third two-rooms option could provide an alternative which would not adversely affect foreign students while still protecting vulnerable faculty.

Students would assemble in one classroom, but the professor would be in another separate ("TV studio") room, or in his office with a video cam. The professor's image and voice would be carried to the classroom by a cable - or, if necessary, by an intranet connection.

The professor will see, hear, and call upon students from a monitor in the studio or in his office, and the students will see and hear the professor (probably better than if he were in the large classroom) on a large-screen TV in the classroom.

If a simple cable is used to connect the classroom where the students are with the room the professor is in, there is obviously not an "online class." Indeed, it's just like any other "overflow" classroom used when all students cannot fit into one room.

On the other hand, if the two rooms are connected by an internal intranet, it's also not an "online class" since there is a well recognized distinction between online classes utilizing the Internet, and the use of an intranet where the signal is confined to a single building.

In either case the students have virtually all of the advantages denied them with online classes; e.g., they are physically in the same room where they can easily see and hear each other; interact before, during, and after class; share documents, ideas, or work with each other; and even do joint projects, etc. They can also see and hear the professor better than they would if they were seated far away in a socially-distanced classroom, and the professor wore a mask and/or was behind a plexiglass shield.

If desired, the professor's voice and image (plus anything on the blackboard or a projector) could also be transmitted over the Internet for any students who might, for whatever reason (e.g., risk of infection, child care responsibilities, employment, etc.) prefer online instruction, but the other students (including the foreign students), together in the physical classroom in a building on campus, would not be receiving online instruction from "online classes" of the type limited by the new ICE regulations.

In short, such a simple and inexpensive arrangement would avoid having to move many classes online (to protect faculty and even students at high risk from COVID-19) while still providing those who need it with protection from exposure in a classroom.

Posted by: LawProf John Banzhaf | Jul 8, 2020 7:56:14 PM