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President Smith Condemns Recent Guidelines on International Students

Clothier tower behind trees in spring time

President Valerie Smith shared the following message with the campus community on July 8, 2020:

Dear Swarthmore Community Members, 

Like many of you, I am profoundly disturbed by the guidance recently issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concerning international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities this fall. In short, DHS has issued an ultimatum to these students: Either participate in in-person courses or be forced to leave the country. 

With this new guidance, DHS targets a group of students who remain among the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of the global pandemic. DHS’s guidelines also fail to acknowledge the possibility that a new or continued surge of COVID-19 could force institutions to move to a fully remote environment this fall. Under such circumstances, and through no fault of their own, international students would be required to leave the country immediately. 

This policy undermines the efforts institutions of higher learning are taking to keep their communities safe in the midst of this pandemic. It essentially mandates that institutions of higher learning expand in-person learning opportunities precisely at a time when many colleges and universities — Swarthmore among them — require maximum flexibility to prioritize the health and well-being of our campuses and neighboring communities. 

Furthermore, this directive makes no economic sense; the American Council on Education estimates that international students yield approximately $41 billion for the U.S. economy and support more than 450,000 U.S. jobs, across every profession and sector. To what end would the federal government seek to expel international students other than to continue its nefarious assault on immigrants?   

Our society — and the Swarthmore College community specifically — is enriched by the presence of international students. We all benefit from their creative and intellectual curiosity and diverse perspectives. This decision ignores their collective and individual contributions. It’s also an affront to Swarthmore’s mission and values, and is, by any reasonable analysis, short-sighted, punitive, and inhumane.
We have already communicated directly with our international students to offer our assistance, and we are working to identify ways we can best support them, including by urging our congressional representatives to oppose this DHS policy. Here is information on ways to contact your elected officials, should you wish to do the same. 


Val Smith

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