On Monday, July 7, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued new guidelines related to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The guidance prohibited international students from returning to or remaining in the United States for the fall semester if the colleges they attend adopt online-only instructions models during the COVID—19 pandemic. On July 14, after widespread criticism and legal actions from colleges and universities across the U.S., including Georgetown, DHS dropped the directive.
Following DHS’s July 7th announcement, School of Foreign Service Dean Joel Hellman issued a statement committing SFS to supporting its international students, whose presence in the school community he described as “a hallmark of an SFS education.” Read his full statement below.
Dean Joel Hellman’s Message to the SFS Community
Dear SFS Students,
The School of Foreign Service was created a century ago in the shadow of a devastating global conflict with an explicit mission to strengthen America’s engagement with the world. From the very start this entailed strong representation of students from around the world in our classrooms to enrich our discussions and foster greater understanding of global problems. Generations of SFS students have singled out the international diversity of our community as one of the most rewarding aspects of their time at Georgetown. This has been the hallmark of an SFS education since our founding.
We at SFS are outraged by the recent guidance of the Department of Homeland Security that will restrict the participation of international students in the educational programs of Georgetown and at other universities around the country. This will not only harm our international students, but threaten the core principle on which the SFS was founded. More importantly, it will weaken America’s ability to work together with other nations to develop viable and durable solutions to global problems at a moment in which this has never been more important.
As President DeGioia said today in his message of support for international students, we are joining together with other universities and colleges to challenge this guidance in federal court. We are also mobilizing our considerable SFS alumni network to raise their powerful voices on these issues.
SFS will resume operations on main campus with a hybrid approach enabling all international students to take in-person courses in accordance with the new guidelines. Our SFS faculty leadership has committed to offer the necessary hybrid courses for all eligible international students at the undergraduate and graduate levels to sustain their visa status. Recent communication from Provost Groves has expanded the range of international undergraduate students that can apply for residency on campus. We will continue to advocate for those students who access our courses on-line from their own countries to protect their visa eligibility.
I want to make it absolutely clear that SFS is a community that requires diversity as we require air or water, since we cannot educate students about international affairs without having truly diverse perspectives in our classrooms. International students are core to our existence. And the recent SFS Call to Action on Global Anti-Racism has committed us to paying as much attention to the sources of domestic diversity on race and ethnicity within the US.
Please recognize that this is a rapidly evolving situation and there will be much more detailed information and guidance in the days to come. We will be holding town halls for all international students to answer questions in more detail. The first is scheduled for Friday, July 10 at 9 am. Further Zoom call details will follow.
To our international students, please know that you will have our unwavering support. To be true to the mission for which this school was founded, we have no other choice.