Dear Members of the Lehigh Community,
Lehigh University is strengthened by the diverse group of students, faculty and staff that we recruit from across the world. The experience, expertise and dedication of our international students and colleagues are essential to Lehigh’s outstanding educational and research programs. The new rule issued on Monday by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, is extremely disruptive to students and to universities like Lehigh.
Lehigh is focused on maintaining our high standard of teaching and learning while at the same time balancing the need to provide a safe learning and work environment. This past spring, SEVP allowed much-needed flexibility with rules affecting international students, permitting students on visas to take courses online as higher education responded to the health crisis. This week’s reversal and return to the status quo come at a time when we have not returned to the status quo. The new rules restrict the ability for international students to be fully enrolled online and place an additional and unnecessary burden upon these members of our community.
Lehigh will support our international students in continuing their progress toward degrees. Our Office of International Students and Scholars has been in direct communication with international students since the issuance of this guidance. Our plans for graduate and undergraduate education in the fall focus on a mixture of in-person and online courses and student experiences. As such, we believe that in most cases we will be able to offer the kind of in-person educational program that students need to comply with these changes in visa requirements. University leaders, deans and faculty are looking specifically at how our course offerings will support our international students in progressing toward their degree, now and as the health situation evolves. We are working with our congressional leaders, partner organizations and peer colleges and universities to collaborate on how we can collectively take action in support of our international students. This work is important in minimizing the uncertainty and disruption for international students seeking to further their education at American universities.
Given the stresses and challenges already faced by students and universities due to the global pandemic, it is critical that we communicate clearly and directly about Lehigh’s commitment to providing the best possible education and supporting our diverse community.
For questions, The Office of International Students and Scholars can be reached at (610) 758-4859 or firstname.lastname@example.org. There will also be a faculty town hall on Tuesday, July 14, at 1:00 p.m., and a student town hall on Thursday, July 16, at 9:30 a.m. Instructions to register will be forthcoming.
Nathan N. Urban
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Vice President/Vice Provost, International Affairs