Pomona and Scripps Must, and Have the Means to, Support International Students

Earlier today, Pomona and Scripps Colleges became the Claremont Colleges’ first to announce conducting classes entirely remotely for the Fall 2020 semester. However, under new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regulations announced a day ago, international students may not take a full course load online and stay in the United States. ICE recommends that international students depart the US or transfer to an institution with in-person instruction, a near impossibility in July. While Harvard and MIT are suing to allow international students to stay, Pomona and Scripps international students suffer from uncertainty. Like Columbia University, other institutions are already creating plans such as housing international students on campus and creating a one-credit in-person class for their international students; Pomona and Scripps have to do the same to fulfill their responsibilities to international students. 

While the following suggestions are not ideal, in the case that the ICE regulations are not overturned in court, they show that Pomona and Scripps still have plenty of options for international students who wish to remain in the US, from housing students on campus to courses aimed at international students to satisfy ICE’s requirement of not taking an entire course load online. 

International students make up 12% of Pomona’s student body and make up 5.4% of Scripps’ student body. Neither college should have any problem hosting international students on their campuses. Pomona can house all of its international students and even have many rooms left over, with more rooms than the number of international students on South Campus alone. Housing students can also bring in room and board payments, which can help support Pomona’s dining and housing staff, who may suffer from reduced hours later in the year, even if the colleges are currently promising full wages. Both campuses easily have the space, housing, and facilities to safely operate under the requirements needed for international students. Students would be able to attend in-person class safely, have their own single room (or even rooms) and be able to properly social distance. 

With the limited number of international students on their campuses, it makes no sense that Pomona and Scripps couldn’t borrow ideas from other colleges that have decided to implement a hybrid model, including Columbia University, located in one of the cities worst hit by the pandemic. Pomona and Scripps only need to look at their own consortium; for example, Harvey Mudd College has committed to a hybrid experience for all of its students. If Harvey Mudd can safely run a limited in-person experience, it is absurd to think that Pomona and Scripps could not do the same with their international students. 

With a very low population density possible on campus, even if bringing back the entire international student population, Pomona and Scripps can easily help international students fulfill the requirement of taking part of their course loads in person. While there are social distancing concerns for indoor instruction, the ICE regulations do not state that the classes have to be inside a classroom. Pomona and Scripps can offer outdoor classes, as transmission rates for outdoor activities are much lower than those of indoor activities. It appears that both Columbia and NYU already are planning along similar lines of thinking:

Columbia and NYU creating a one-credit “in-person” “global course” for all international students to register for so they can’t be deported by ICE: absolutely iconic — myesha thee stallion (@myeshachou) July 8, 2020

While coronavirus cases are rising in California and across the country, this increase has not seen a corresponding increase in hospitalizations or deaths. The coronavirus is appearing to fall under the CDC’s level marking an illness as an epidemic. The coronavirus now causes less than 5.9% of weekly deaths in the United States. Coronavirus death rates among college-age students are also very low relative to other age groups, even when compared to many other illnesses. To date, only 142 teenagers and young adults aged 15-24 have died of the coronavirus in the United States. We acknowledge the seriousness of the coronavirus, but international students should also be able to weigh the risks to themselves compared to what they will gain by staying in the United States. 

The coronavirus has disrupted education, and in a perfect world, Pomona and Scripps would not have to consider these options and international students would not have to weigh the risks. However, Pomona and Scripps should take cues from other institutions and show initiative and creativity in seeking solutions to these problems and win the confidence of its international students. 

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