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Letter from Scott Fritzen, Dean, David L. Boren College of International Studies

International Studies letterhead

September 25, 2020

Dear OU community,

I write to share our strong objections and evolving response to another proposed change to the student visa regime announced by the US administration this morning.  You can read about the proposed rule on this NAFSA page — and please note that the rule change is only proposed, pending a 30-day public comment period, and not yet official.

It may be helpful first to take stock of the past two months. The OU International Student Response Task Force was launched in early July, in the wake of what President Joe Harroz and Interim Senior Vice President and Provost Jill Irvine called “incredibly unfair, harmful, and unworkable” changes to student visa regulations proposed by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We worked with universities from across the spectrum of higher education in this country to oppose those changes, joining an amicus brief in support of a legal complaint against the Department of Homeland Security. That legal action resulted in the administration withdrawing the proposal. Since then, we have continued our Task Force work to advocate and coordinate services for international students in the incredibly challenging circumstances posed by the pandemic.

Navigating the pandemic is difficult enough for international students. Yet once again, they face a complex regulatory change that threatens to make their world even more uncertain. In brief, the proposal is to require international students to apply for an extension of their visa status after various fixed terms — terms that are typically shorter than the average duration of academic programs in which those students would be enrolled.  The proposed rule changes would also disproportionately affect students from certain countries, by limiting their initial visa status to only two years. In so doing, they heighten both student anxieties and trigger deep concerns over arbitrary and inequitable treatment of certain groups of students over others.  

In short, this proposal appears to be as “unfair, inequitable and unworkable” as ICE’s ill-fated July proposal was. We will be submitting comments to the Department of Homeland Security denouncing the proposed rule, and OU is prepared once again to join other universities in advocating strongly against any regulatory changes that are opposed to our core values and harmful to our community — a community that will always include our remarkable international students.

Please allow me to convey the Task Force’s appreciation for the tremendous support for our international students that we have seen across OU and among its many friends in the previous months.  We will stay in close touch with you to share further updates, advocacy efforts and practical measures that we are taking.

Scott Fritzen
Dean, David L. Boren College of International Studies
International Student Response Task Force Chair