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Supporting Our International Students

A message from Dean Bridget Long regarding HGSE's response to the ICE policy regarding international student visas
July 8, 2020

The assault on members of our international community, as most recently demonstrated by the announced ICE regulations, is harmful, cruel, and incredibly misguided. This is only the most recent action in a long list of efforts to denigrate, remove, and bar people from the United States with false accusations and outright discrimination.  And now, in the midst of a pandemic, our international students are being threatened with deportation, when even schools that plan to be in residence are facing the fact that they may need to quickly reverse that decision based on an evolving (and most recently, deteriorating) public health situation. This latest action only adds to a time of heightened uncertainty and stress for us all — from the continued health crisis, unrest due to persistent injustices, and threats to basic needs, we are all reeling from the constant attacks on respect, equality, and safety.  

Make no mistake: HGSE stands in solidarity with our international students. Regardless of identity, citizenship, religion, or creed, we value the diversity of our student body and know that having a range of perspectives and lived experiences serves to strengthen our pursuit to help all learners across all contexts. In the face of the ICE regulations, we especially recognize the major contributions of the students who come to HGSE from outside of the United States. I would like to say now to our international students: You are our colleagues, our students, our collaborators, and our friends. You strengthen our community through your teaching, your research, and your practice. Your impact goes far beyond classrooms; you share your skills, perspectives, and ideas, helping those around you see and understand a broader world and a global society. Some of you have started families, which would be torn apart if this regulation is enforced. I know that the bonds you have forged with our community are not suddenly irrelevant because public safety dictates an altered educational model this coming academic year.  

I also know current travel restrictions make it difficult — if not impossible — for many international students to leave. Given the failure of the U.S. to gain control of the pandemic, all of us residing in the U.S. face travel restrictions on entering other countries, including our international students. And many of us are worried about loved ones who are facing challenges in other countries.

If you are feeling the anger and hurt due to this recent regulation, please know that you are not alone, and our students will not be alone in dealing with this latest challenge. There are multiple efforts at HGSE, and at the University writ large, to address this situation. First, as you saw from President Bacow’s email this morning, Harvard and MIT filed with the U.S. District Court in Boston to seek a temporary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the ICE regulations. I want to thank the students who worked with me yesterday to share their personal stories with the Harvard administration as the attorneys prepared to take this important action. Additionally, my team at HGSE and individuals across the University are working to identify options that would allow international students already in the United States to remain. Given the very recent announcement of the regulations, we are all still seeking clarification on exactly what is required so that we can develop ways to address the needs of our students, while also maintaining our commitment to safeguarding public health. I know this may feel incredibly frightening, but you have a very large community of people dedicated to protecting you regardless of the decision of the courts. As we coordinate our response, I’ve asked Meredith Lamont, Chief of Staff, to serve as the central point of contact, and I ask for you to contact her directly with any specific questions or concerns.

During a time of such tumult, when it feels like each day brings a new crisis, I urge all of us take a moment to attend to our own well-being, and to the degree you are able, to reach out in support of others. Though I continue to be bewildered and astounded by the perpetual harm being undertaken at this time, this has also been a time during which we have strengthened our collective bonds as a community. At HGSE, we are bound together by our shared respect and our dedication to improving the lives of others, and while so much seems so complicated, the truth of our shared commitment to helping all learners is clearly evident in the many actions I have witnessed by those who are a part of HGSE. We will use our skills, ideas, and efforts to chart a positive way forward, not only for ourselves but for the many communities we serve.  

Be well,

Bridget Long, Ph.D.
Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Saris Professor of Education and Economics