Change in Federal Rules Affecting International Students – July 9

Dear Members of the Gettysburg College Community,

On Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced “modifications” to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program that have been understood to require international students to leave the country if their college or university is forced by the pandemic to turn to a fully remote teaching platform. The modifications were put in place without any notice or opportunity to comment by the higher education community.

While the ICE rule has an undeniable impact on our international students, we are fortunate that our current approach to the Fall Semester, by offering a variety of in-person and online courses, provides important flexibility for our international students. Brad Lancaster, our Director of International Student Services, has been in touch with our international students to walk them through the ICE requirements, to answer their questions, and to address their concerns. Although we are still seeking to understand the full import of the rule, it appears that our international students should be able to meet the curricular requirements that will permit them to stay in the country given the way our Fall Semester is being structured. As long as students take no more than one fully remote class—and the College will work with students toward that goal—they should be eligible to remain in country.

Gettysburg College will join many colleges and universities across the nation in signing an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit brought by Harvard and MIT that seeks to challenge this policy. The policy serves no apparent compelling purpose, other than to burden international students and discourage their engagement with American higher education. Meanwhile, the potential consequences to our country, and to the educational mission of institutions like Gettysburg, are profound.

In an increasingly global and interconnected world, international students offer a vital set of life experiences and perspectives that deepen our capacity for inquiry, exploration, and the search for truth. They are valued and active members of this community, and their presence makes this a more vibrant, engaging, and dynamic campus. As witnessed by the reaction across higher education to the ICE rule, our experience is repeated on college and university campuses across the country. In many cases, international students remain in the United States after graduation and contribute significantly to the country through their leadership and innovation.

The new ICE rule sends a clear and unwelcoming message to international students. It is short-sighted, unwise, and counterproductive. We stand with our international students, now and always, to ensure that the education we promised them is indeed the Gettysburg education they receive. Should the College at some point be forced by the virus to reconsider our residential model for part of the upcoming year, we will work closely with our international students and legal counsel to do all that we can to continue their education in the most effective and safest means—including by exploring alternative curricular arrangements that might meet ICE’s newly articulated requirements and permit students to remain on campus.


Bob Iuliano