SAN FRANCISCO, July 14 (Xinhua) -- Stanford University announced Monday it has joined 19 other colleges and universities in the western United States in a lawsuit challenging a new federal directive affecting international students, and has also joined 58 other universities in a separate legal filing supporting another challenge to the federal directive.
According to the announcement, Stanford and the other colleges and universities are seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block the implementation of a new rule limiting international students' use of online coursework while studying in the United States. In the second case, Stanford and the other universities have filed an amicus brief supporting a challenge brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
"Our international students are essential members of the Stanford community, and this new rule creates unnecessary uncertainty and complexity for them," said Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne. "We are seeking the federal government's support and flexibility as colleges and universities work to provide for both the health and the academic goals of our students amid the unprecedented circumstances that have been brought about by the pandemic."
At issue is a July 6 directive by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding the ability of international students who are in the United States on F-1 visas to take online courses.
Previous federal guidance issued in the spring had allowed these students additional flexibility to take online courses if needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the new directive says that this fall, students on F-1 visas will not be able to take a full online course load and still remain in the United States.
In the lawsuit and motion for a temporary restraining order filed in the U.S. District Court in Oregon on Monday, the coalition of 20 universities said the new federal directive had created "disarray" for international students studying in the United States and for their respective colleges and universities.
The establishments argued that in reversing its previous course and issuing the new directive, the federal government failed to meet the "reasoned decision-making" standard of the Administrative Procedure Act. This "unwarranted and unlawful action threatens to disrupt the education of hundreds of thousands of hardworking students and their academic environments and missions," the suit said.
Similarly, the amicus brief in the Harvard/MIT case filed by 59 institutions including Stanford said the July 6 federal directive is "arbitrary and capricious."
"We hope that we can quickly get a court ruling that will restore the flexibility that (the) DHS wisely gave to universities in March to deal with this pandemic by providing online instruction for international students as necessary to allow them to continue their education safely," said Debra Zumwalt, vice president and general counsel of Stanford.
In 2019, the total number of international students enrolled in U.S. colleges was 1,095,299. China has been the country's largest source of international students for 10 consecutive years, according to the Institute of International Education.