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ICE's new rules on remote courses are devastating.

A longer version of this appeared in Bloomberg online.

As colleges began to roll out plans for fall 2020, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that it would prohibit international students from entering or remaining in the United States if colleges adopt online-only plans. The reasoning appears to be that if all instruction is taking place over the internet, there's no reason for these students to stay.

That judgment underestimates the disruption that will ensue for international students and the fundamental unfairness of the policy. I'm now a fifth-year medical student at Yale, but in spring 2017 — at the end of my first year — I flew to Cameroon, where I grew up, for my father's wedding. I left immediately after my last mandatory in-person class, knowing that I could watch recordings of the remaining lectures and take my last two exams from home.

It was chaos. There was a mobile hot spot at my father's house, but unlike the typical monthly plans of U.S. households, we purchased access by the gigabyte or by the hour or day. Because of slow download speeds, instead of watching lectures like most of my classmates back in the United States, I worked through the corresponding textbook chapters and downloaded the exams.

There is no way I could have done this long-term, as international students in online-only programs are now being ordered to do. In Cameroon, there's no sustainable infrastructure in place for distance learning that would allow students to keep up with the pace of classes in the United States.

At Yale, international students make up 22 percent of the student body, some 3,000 people. This fall sophomores will stay home the first semester, working remotely, freshmen the second semester. Other students will live on campus and take a mix of in-person and online courses.

First- and second-year medical students will take a mix of virtual and in-class courses, so international students can stay. Advanced medical students spend most of our time in the hospital, learning at the bedside and some doing research.

Yale President Peter Salovey has written that "it is not yet clear how this policy will apply to every program or individual students." At universities that are going online-only, where some students will nonetheless live on the campus, the entire academic year might be in jeopardy.

If a student is sent back home, how would they participate in (online) group projects and live lectures, with low-quality or costly Internet access? What about sleep disruptions for students far from U.S. time zones — say, in Beijing?

Universities are in a bind, forced to make the difficult choice between following important public health guidelines and holding in-person instruction so their international students won't be deported. MIT and Harvard have sued the Trump administration to stop the rule.

This plan does not seem well thought out. If the intricacies were considered and ICE still moved forward, then the cruelty is truly the point.

Max Jordan Nguemeni Tiako
 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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