Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. addressed questions from International students including safety and tuition concerns in a webinar Wednesday.
Hosted by The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) and The International Students Association (ISA), the webinar was originally planned in response to an ICE order that would have prevented international students from staying in the United States if all of their classes were scheduled online. That order was rescinded on Tuesday.
“I’m extraordinarily pleased that the administration withdrew their ruling that would have had ICE potentially intervening and even deporting our students,” Stanley said. He later said that, “The current immigration policies are not ones that the university is supportive of. I am happy to say at any time that I find them counter-productive.”
Students submitted 105 questions for Stanley through a Google form prior to the meeting. ASMSU President Abii-Tah Bih, posed the questions to Stanley and condensed them to fit into the half hour scheduled.
First, Stanley walked through MSU’s initial response to protect international students when ICE first released their now rescinded order on July 6.
Stanley said that first the university reached out to General Counsel Executive Brian Quinn to discuss what kind of legal opportunities there were to push back on ICE’s initial order. Additionally, MSU joined forces with other schools including MIT, Harvard, the University of California and the University of Washington and cosigned a letter with other major research institutions to push back and express worry for the damages the order would create.
He also said that his administration and himself reached out to elected officials and senior leaders in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to discuss push back strategies that would protect MSU’s international community.
Internally, Stanley said faculty spoke personally to international students to help them find courses that would allow them to qualify for the requirements needed to stay if the order would have remained.
But even with the order rescinded, international students still may face challenges returning to campus in the fall due to border restrictions. In response to this concern, Stanley said the university is working on offering more courses and improving the quality of online remote education, especially for those not able to make it back to East Lansing.
To do this, MSU offered more online courses in the summer as well as trained over 600 faculty members through a virtual course on how to better teach online.
In regard to tuition concerns, he said it is “difficult to reduce those costs and make discounts,” but he is hoping to work on creating more funds that would help international students cover costs.
“Their (international students') opportunities to get support for emergency funds and emergency support are much more limited than other students,” Stanley said. “That’s one of the things I’m working with advancement on is to set up a fund … but if we could get to that level where at least we can provide some emergency help sometimes where people had temporary things that were keeping them from being able to come back to campus or making it difficult for them to complete their studies that I think would be good.”
The webinar concluded with students getting the opportunity to ask personal questions to a panel of MSU faculty that works specifically with the international community.
“The idea again was to expand our offerings so that international students could satisfy most of their requirements hopefully to continue their education remotely while this crisis exists,” Stanley said. “I'm hoping there'll be changes from DHS (Department of Homeland Security) so that they will start issuing visas again for students, but I have to tell you I'm not optimistic that that's going to happen in the near future.”
Next Bih asked Stanley how MSU plans on protecting international students in the future both during their time at MSU and their work experience beyond during their Optional Practical Training (OPT) period.
In response, Stanley addressed the many allies the university has that range from elected officials to corporate businesses.
“The Google's of the world, the Microsoft's of the world for example, are very dependent on international students in the U.S. and OPT is a remarkable benefit for them in terms of their ability to hire talented people,” Stanley said. “We continue to try to reach out to Congress to talk about this issue and to try and pass laws that would protect and preserve OPT.”
But there were also some unknowns such as when it came to tuition and spring semester. Knowing that international students have to make travel accommodations come spring, Stanley said the university is working on a plan but was not ready to give a definitive answer on dates the semester would start/end.