Office of the Provost

PROVOST COMMUNICATIONS

U-M Commitment to its International Students regarding the new DHS Guidance

[Email to U-M international students]
July 13, 2020

Dear U-M International Students,

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 Please know that we care deeply about your wellbeing, and are working hard to get the policy rescinded.

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 (DHS) guidance will disrupt the learning of all who are part of our community.

I find it especially disturbing that the guidance is directed toward you – international students – who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. In addition to the health and safety concerns that we all share, you also are affected by the uncertainties of travel and concern for family members who are far away. I know that this can be very stressful and encourage you to reach out to friends, faculty, the academic staff in your college or school, the International Center, or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for support.

We are working to address the campus impacts of the DHS guidance; the International Center (IC) will continue to be the authoritative source for updates. The IC has recently posted detailed information about the guidelines and how they impact our students in the coming term. After review of the federal information, we believe that U-M’s plan for fall term, with a mix of courses that are in-person, remote, or a hybrid of the two, will enable you to develop an appropriate, educationally rich plan of study for the fall while adhering to the new guidance from the U.S. government.

In addition, I would like to address concerns some students have conveyed about the possibility of a switch to all remote classes if the public health situation requires it. The guidance says that international students must depart the U.S. (or transfer to another school) if their enrolling institution changes its operational stance mid-semester and transitions to online instruction only. We believe that this would apply to the University of Michigan only if we transition to fully online instruction at some point prior to November 30, the date when remote instruction is scheduled to begin for everyone. The only scenario in which we would make such a switch is if we have severe COVID-19 occurrence in our community and it is deemed absolutely necessary. We are working hard to create a campus environment that keeps the pandemic in check, with multiple layers of research-based public health measures that help to protect health and safety for all students, instructors and staff.

Before the start of the fall term, you will need to review your selection of courses with the DHS guidance in mind. The Registrar’s Office will be posting online information about the format of courses, indicating whether they are in-person, remote, or hybrid. Beginning August 7, you can adjust your course selection as needed. I encourage you to talk with your faculty or academic adviser, mentor, or others in your program, school, or college as you make decisions about which courses you’ll take in the fall.

In addition, U-M has joined several other colleges, universities, and higher education organizations in supporting the legal challenge Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are making against the DHS guidance. We also are working with business and education leaders to help congressional and other governmental officials understand the new measures and enlist their help in rescinding or substantially altering the guidance that will have such a detrimental effect on higher education here at Michigan and around the world.

I join other campus leaders, your teachers, and your fellow students in supporting you in this difficult time and look forward to welcoming you back to campus in the fall or as soon thereafter as visas and travel allow.

Sincerely,

Susan M. Collins
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs