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Letter from President Harroz and Interim Provost Irvine July 8, 2020

July 8, 2020

Dear OU Community:

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought seemingly endless disruptions to all of us, our international students have experienced disproportionate challenges as a result of the crisis. The latest guidance issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) adds greatly to the anxieties and uncertainties the international student community faces.

Let there be no mistake: like many other institutions across higher education, we at OU share the view of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities that the proposed changes are incredibly unfair, harmful, and unworkable. We urge a reconsideration in the name of public health, equity, and the ideals of global engagement on which our great public universities are founded.

Our international students provide unique and indispensable contributions that enrich our campuses and the broader community. All of us at OU benefit from our international community, which fosters a diverse and innovative environment, where bright minds come together in the united pursuit of collaboration, innovation, and enlightenment. To each of our international students: you belong here, and we will do everything we can to keep you here. 

Although ICE has issued a guidance statement and a series of FAQs, as of this afternoon it had not published a formal legal rule. We are actively working with state, federal, and campus partners to seek a change in this rule, but we are also reviewing the guidance and assessing the potential impacts on OU’s international students should it go into effect. It appears at this time that the impacts will be mitigated by our decision to provide in-person instruction, but there are many details and scenarios that still need detailed examination and contingency planning. University personnel across our Office of Government Affairs, Division of Academic Affairs, and the David L. Boren College of International Studies are working quickly to engage our Oklahoma congressional delegation and nationwide partners, coordinate advocacy efforts for our international students, and communicate the tremendous, detrimental impact this new guidance would have not only on our students, but on our institution at large.

To that end, Interim Senior Vice President and Provost Jill Irvine will form a task force chaired by Scott Fritzen, Dean of the College of International Studies, that will meet frequently to assess the situation and the tangible steps OU is taking to support and aggressively advocate for our international students. The task force will be engaging with student representatives to help inform our efforts at all stages, and will communicate actively with affected constituencies and our community at large.

We are heartened, but not surprised, that so many constituencies from across OU have expressed widespread support for our international students in the last few days. At OU, this is not an international student problem. This is everyone’s problem. For 130 years, OU has been a place where our students have thrived and succeeded. It is our obligation, like generations before us, to uphold these values. We are the OU family, and together, we will emerge stronger beyond the pandemic, complete with our remarkable international student community.

Live on, University,
Joseph Harroz, Jr.

Jill Irvine
Interim Senior Vice President and Provost