Old Main

Old Main is illuminated as the sun sets on Penn State's campus on Monday, March 18, 2019.

A petition directed toward Gov. Tom Wolf and Penn State urges the university to maintain in-person classes for international students to avoid deportation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE announced this week that international students attending American universities that go completely online will be deported. Students currently outside of the United States will be denied visas.

The petition — which had roughly 1,445 signatories of its 1,500 goal Tuesday evening — said that although Penn State is currently planning for in-person instruction until Thanksgiving break, a spike in coronavirus cases could lead the university to move "online-only."

University spokesperson Wyatt DuBois said the university is "deeply concerned about the potential impact" that ICE's new policies could have on the international community at Penn State.

"Our international students need to rely, like all our students, faculty and staff, on a safe and flexible learning environment that will help make possible the attainment of their educational goals in a safe and healthy manner," DuBois said via email. "In the midst of a global pandemic, the imposition of these new unreasonable rules is unfair and wrong."

The author of the petition wrote that transitioning to online-only instruction would "detrimentally impact" thousands of international students, harming educational opportunities and causing access and communication difficulties for students from their home countries.

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In ICE's announcement, international students were given the option to transfer to a university that allows for in-person or hybrid instruction in order to remain in the United States. However, the petition said transferring could cause a multitude of issues.

"Many have committed financially to housing and cars for the year with car and housing leases," the petition reads. "...Many students cannot transfer due to upper-division class restrictions, forcing them to put a pause on their education."

The petition said the only way to guarantee protection of "our community" is that Penn State maintain its plans for teaching a hybrid model of courses "for the remainder of the pandemic."

DuBois said the university is calling for the "immediate reconsideration" of ICE's policies alongside the "AAU, ACE, APLU and other colleagues in higher education."

"That is in America’s best interest, and, we believe, simply the right thing to do," DuBois said.

Additional details regarding how ICE's policies could impact Penn State's international students are forthcoming.

DuBois added that students with immediate questions can contact their academic adviser or the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising at 814-865-6348. Students can also submit questions at iStart.gp.psu.edu.

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.