Dear Wake Forest community,
In the midst of unprecedented circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are facing yet another challenging and damaging situation. This week, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), an office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), issued modifications to exemptions for international students taking online classes during the Fall 2020 semester. This guidance will have a tremendously detrimental impact on our international students, the Wake Forest community, higher education as a whole and our society at large.
First, to our international students, who have left their families, friends and all that is familiar to come to the United States to pursue their education, I am sorry that this policy has created more stress and harm for you. Because of this pandemic, you have already had to navigate many unsettling moments. This added burden is cruel, harsh and the antithesis of the opportunity afforded by education. It is nothing we would have anticipated and certainly not what we believe is best for you or our community. You are welcome at Wake Forest, and we will do all we can to make it possible for you to remain here so we can learn from each other.
The Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) is working diligently to advocate for Wake Forest students, ensure that they have accurate information and support them with care while enabling them to continue their Wake Forest educations. Colleagues in ISSS have reached out directly to assist our students who may be affected. Additionally, on the afternoon of July 7, SEVP issued Frequently Asked Questions that contradict the guidance provided from SEVP on July 6. ISSS has initiated an inquiry with SEVP seeking clarification and plans to send a campus update as soon as SEVP confirms their directives.
Our faculty are also aware of this situation and, even as they prepare for their fall courses, are exploring options that provide a safe learning environment for our international students. Students will be able to work with their advisors to construct a schedule that is not fully online for the fall.
We are also working with our government relations colleagues in Washington, D.C. They have already spoken with Senator Thom Tillis’ office and continue to pursue additional avenues of advocacy. Just this morning, universities issued a lawsuit against this ruling, hoping to overturn the drastic measures. We will continue to stay apprised of developments and actively advocate for our students.
I am grateful that we have a community that welcomes and supports students from around the world. Thank you to those who are working on their behalf, and thank you to our many international students who greatly enrich our community.
Nathan O. Hatch