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Harvard and MIT’s Lawsuit

August 27, 2020

By: Sage Kashner


As fall approaches, colleges are implementing policies regarding online classes, larger lecture halls, and single-person dorms. Some colleges are restricting the presence of students on campus and others are  not. Quite a few are banking on online classes as their solution for teaching students without risk of infection. 

On Monday, July 6th, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that students who have F-1 visas “may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States” (1). CNN reported that ICE also suggested that students transfer to universities with in-person classes if their universities were online learning only. 

International students and their families were instantly thrown into turmoil. They could attempt to study from their home country, try to transfer last minute to a school with in-person classes, or  acquire an independent study with one of the many understanding professors who offered their support to students. This late in the summer, options are limited and possibly unsafe for students and their families. 

Many individual efforts were made in support of international students. Some professors were offering independent studies for any international student that needed an in person class. There were petitions set up and a general outcry from students who were in support of their international peers. The biggest joint effort came in the form of a lawsuit. 

On Wednesday, July 8th, Harvard and MIT jointly filed suit against ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (2). Harvard and MIT called the directive “arbitrary and capricious” (3). Soon, over 200 schools backed Harvard and MIT in the lawsuit and filed amicus briefs.

The schools argued that the current crisis is far from over and wrote that “[international students] make valuable contributions to our classrooms, campuses and communities — contributions that have helped make American higher education the envy of the world” (4). Schools were also quickly attempting to rework their plans to allow their international students to stay. This involved changes in housing, schedules, and any facility on campus that international students would need access to. 

On Tuesday, July 14th, NPR reported “Judge Allison Burroughs announced that the schools had reached an agreement with ICE and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security. She said the government will rescind this policy” (3). 

This quick turnaround on the decision was gratifying and also showed just how much power our colleges hold. Two of the biggest names in academia, supported by other schools both big and small, created a change in a national decision in just over one week. The lawsuit was both quick and effective. 


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