WASHINGTON: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (
University on Wednesday filed a joint lawsuit against the Trump administration’s move to deport foreign students unless they took in-person courses, even as universities across America raced against time to devise ways to retain their international contingent.
In a complaint filed before a Massachusetts court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, MIT and Harvard said the announcement by the Trump administration’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that foreign students cannot stay in the US taking only online courses in the time of the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted international student life and jeopardized their academic research pursuits.
“ICE’s action leaves hundreds of thousands of international students with no educational options within the United States. Just weeks from the start of the fall semester, these students are largely unable to transfer to universities providing on-campus instruction, notwithstanding ICE’s suggestion that they might do so to avoid removal from the country. Moreover, for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous,” the lawsuit said.
Arguing that the ability to provide remote education during the pandemic is of paramount importance to universities across the country because Covid-19 is a highly contagious disease that spreads from human to human in close contact situations, the lawsuit maintained that “densely populated classrooms that are attendant with on-campus instruction have the potential to turn into “super-spreader” situations that endanger the health of not only the university community, but also those in the surrounding areas and anyone else with whom community members may come into contact.”
Indeed, in recognition of the exceptional risk of indoor congregation, Harvard has limited undergraduate on-campus residency to 40% of capacity for the upcoming term. Similarly, MIT has limited undergraduate on-campus residency for the fall to members of the rising senior class and a limit