LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Even during the summer months, the Transylvania University campus isn't as eerily quiet as it is now. That's what a pandemic will do to a college campus. But if it remains this way into the fall, it could create massive problems for international students attending school on a student VISA.
"There was additional flexibility given to international students," said Denise Hall, who works as Assistant Director for Student Success at Transy. "It seems as if that flexibility is going to be taken away at this time."
Hall, who in her role, works closely with the school's international students, refers to ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has been given the authority to begin the deportation process of international students, whose schools won't offer in-person teaching this fall due to COVID-19. Harvard University made the decision to remain on-line only, and together with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has filed suit to prevent ICE from carrying out deportations.
"I don't think scared is the right word at this time, but I think some students are a little on edge, or uncertain," Hall said of what's she's heard from some of the students she's been in touch with about this matter. She also said they will be monitoring the legal battle between Harvard, MIT and the government.
For now, Transy is planning to offer classroom instruction this fall. The University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University have plans in place that'll also provide enough in-person learning to keep their international students enrolled, and in the country. But what if our coronavirus numbers spike and Governor Beshear mandates on-line teaching only?
"For them, potentially not being permitted to be in the U.S. could have really big implications, that we haven't even thought of all of them, yet," said Hall.
For Hall, those include economic, cultural, and of course, the potential health implications that are associated with international travel, necessitated by deportation.
"Exposing them to the virus in a way that no one wants for someone they care about," she said.
Hall cares about them all. Transy has only a small number of international students, and she's gotten to know each one of them.
"We know their families too," she added while talking about the massive negative impact this type of action would have on them.
Hall also noted that if students have to continue their education on-line overseas, a reliable internet connection cannot be promised for virtual learning. She also factored in the significant time difference between the eastern time zone, and some other international zone.
"It could mean someone sitting for a class at 2 am," she said.
It could mean so much more than that if this comes to pass.