Hampshire College offers ‘sanctuary’ to international students in response to updated ICE guidelines

“We will continue to search for additional ways to counter the destructiveness of this decision.”

Hampshire’s Harold F. Johnson Library, left, and the neighboring Robert Crown Center.
Hampshire’s Harold F. Johnson Library, left, and the neighboring Robert Crown Center. –Sarah Crosby for The Washington Post

Hampshire College says it will offer “sanctuary” to international students who might otherwise be forced to leave the United States after Immigration and Customs Enforcement updated its regulations, requiring students to leave the country if their school is only offering online courses.

Ed Wingenbach, the college president, in a statement on Wednesday called the new measures from the Trump administration, which Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are suing to block, “deliberately cruel and manifestly unjust.”

Under the new regulations, new visas will not be issued to international students enrolled in programs that are entirely online for the fall semester, and the students would be required to take at least some classes in person. If a college is offering a mix of in-person and online courses, international students will be allowed to take more than one class, or three credit hours, online, but the school must certify the program isn’t entirely online. The school must also certify the student isn’t taking an entirely online course load and is taking the “minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.”

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The move has been roundly condemned by public officials in Massachusetts and other leaders in higher education.

“It is transparently intended to disrupt the education of international students and force them to leave the United States for arbitrary reasons,” Wingenbach said of the new rules. “The decision advances no public interest, serves no public good, and has no justification. It is purely malevolent.”

The new federal guidance will not impact Hampshire’s enrolled or admitted international students, since the college is offering a mix of remote and in-person learning for the fall, the college leader said. But the school in Amherst is ready to help those international students at other institutions who are at risk of having to leave the country.

“We are actively seeking to help international students at other colleges whose education is threatened,” Wingenbach said. “Because Hampshire has capacity to safely add students this fall, we can offer sanctuary for at least some international students who might otherwise have to leave the United States. We will continue to search for additional ways to counter the destructiveness of this decision.”

Hampshire isn’t the only school taking steps to condemn the new guidelines from ICE. 

Northeastern University announced Wednesday it is joining the lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, seeking to block the Trump administration’s move. 

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Northeastern officials said the lawsuit filed by the Cambridge institutions reflects the school’s values.

“This new guidance from Homeland Security creates chaos for international students and has the effect of weakening American higher education — one of our nation’s signature strengths,” Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern, said in a statement

For the fall, Northeastern is planning a hybrid approach of in-person and online learning. “While we believe the hybrid-flexible model we have developed at Northeastern will insulate our international students from the pernicious effects of the new rule, we steadfastly oppose this divisive approach,” Aoun said.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that international students attending a school offering a mix of in-person and online courses would only be allowed to take a maximum of one class, or three credit hours, online. Under the ICE guidelines, international students attending a school offering a hybrid model will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online, but the school must certify the program isn’t only online and the student isn’t taking an entirely online course load. 

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