Message to Students, Faculty, and Staff (July 23, 2020)
Today, I sent the following message to our incoming international students, roughly twenty of whom will now be unable to join their classmates on campus because of a US government rule that is ill-conceived and antithetical to the values and interests of this nation. This is an extremely disappointing outcome for all of us, and we will continue to oppose these policies and to support our international students during these difficult days.
To our first-year international students,
I am writing with the very difficult and extremely disappointing news that US government policy will not permit you to come to campus for the fall semester. As you know, last week the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) decided in the face of multiple lawsuits to walk back their odious July guidance that would have adversely affected all international students. Unfortunately, this reversal only applies to currently enrolled students who have active visa status. The decision by DHS and ICE to return to the emergency guidance issued in March means that students who have “initial status” for F-1 or M-1 visas cannot enter the US to study unless they are in a program with no more than one course online. The rule does not affect returning international students in “active status,” but first-year students at colleges and universities around the country will be harmed by this guidance.
Despite our efforts to find a path for you to join your classmates on campus, and after consultation with legal counsel, we have concluded that we cannot, in good conscience, bring first-year international students to campus next month.
We estimate that this will affect about twenty first-year students, as some of you have already decided to remain in your home countries and take your classes online, and several others have deferred admission until next year. In light of these circumstances, we hope you will join the group of first-year students who have chosen to not be on campus this fall but who will nevertheless begin their Bowdoin education online. Instead, you might decide to postpone your enrollment until the fall of 2021. While we had previously extended the deadline for making this decision until August 26 to give you adequate time to secure the necessary visa, we now hope—since coming to campus is no longer an option—that you will be able to let us know your plans by next Thursday, July 30, at noon (EDT) by submitting the deferral request form that is available in your application portal. Please be in touch with Melissa Quinby, dean of first-year students, if this new deadline presents difficulties for you. If you choose to defer, you will be able to begin your studies next fall. For aided students already in the US, we will assist you with the costs of returning home.
I want you to know that we explored various ways to avoid this outcome. Our deliberations included whether we could offer you three specific first-year courses in person—an arrangement that might allow you to satisfy the DHS/ICE requirements. But because these prearranged courses could impose severe limits on your educational options, we concluded that it is best—given these difficult circumstances—for you to explore your academic interests and, in many cases, to begin courses in your field of study with access to the full curriculum. We are also concerned about what would happen if we were somehow able to bring you to campus but were forced by an outbreak of the virus to send students home mid-semester. The strict restrictions on travel that would likely be in place could result in your being stranded in the US and cause you and your families severe difficulty and anxiety while also disrupting your ability to continue your academic work. None of these options made sense.
There are efforts underway, which we will support, to have this aspect of the March guidance changed. It is clearly inconsistent with the spirit and intent of what Harvard and MIT were seeking when they sued the government—a suit that Bowdoin and many other institutions supported through amicus briefs. However, we do not expect these efforts to provide relief in time for the start of the fall semester.
There are no words that can properly express our collective disappointment or the frustration we all feel about these senseless government policies. If there is any good news, it is that you will be able to take four excellent Bowdoin courses online this fall from home, including your first-year writing seminar, and we will look forward with even greater excitement to the day when we can welcome you to campus and put all of these unhappy days behind us.
You will have questions, and we want to be as helpful as we can in directing you to the appropriate people so that you can make the most informed decision. Please reach out to Khoa Khuong, associate dean of upperclass students, who stands ready to help. If you elect to enroll fully online, please email this information to Melissa Quinby, dean of first-year students. Dean Quinby will communicate your decision to residential life, student aid, and the registrar. If you have questions about deferring your enrollment until next year, please contact Claudia Marroquin, director of admissions. Lastly, if you are receiving student aid from Bowdoin College, the student aid office will reach out to you shortly to explain your student aid package, which is adapted to off-campus study costs. If you have questions about your aid, please contact the student aid office.