International students to face obstacles
International students wanting to
study at U-M and other colleges and universities have and will continue
to encounter increasing difficulties in coming months, experts say.
But panelists at an Oct. 16 discussion on changes for international
students were clear that U-M is going to take a proactive role in
the process of finalizing new initiatives.
There are three key questions administrators
are working with the federal government to find
solutions for, and which panelists discussed:
Who gets in?
Students from some nations,
especially China and Middle Eastern countries, already are finding
it more difficult to get student visas. There is a stricter standard
for evaluating applications for males ages 1845 from predominantly
Muslim countries, said Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education.
Non-immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya and Sudan are subject to special
fingerprinting and photographing. They must report to the Immigration
and Naturalization Service (INS) in person to confirm registration
information, and upon departing the United States, they must be
accompanied by a Departure Control Officer.
Regarding disparities in evaluating
international students, "the University would not condone
racial profiling," said Earl Lewis, dean of the Horace
H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.
However, while some may question the legality
of these procedures, "there are an awful lot of
people who think it makes good sense, legal or not,"
Hartle said. The higher education community is among
a minority of voices arguing for further
discussion, while the general population is not very
sympathetic to the plight of international students, Hartle said.
"There are certain doors we have been able to
open that have proved very helpful, that other
institutions may not have access to," said Cynthia
Wilbanks, vice president for government relations.
"The Michigan congressional delegation has been
very supportive and (has) helped keep lines of
How do we keep track of students once they
are in the country?
The INS has created the Student Exchange Visa Information System
(SEVIS), an electronic tracking system. The INS will be able to
access the names, residences, educational status and courses of
SEVIS is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 30.
But Hartle has little confidence the deadline will be met.
Regulations governing SEVIS still are in draft
form, and meeting the deadline, Hartle said, is a
"technological moon shot."
This presents a problem for the University's
International Center, the office responsible for
providing student information for SEVIS. Without the
guiding regulations, what constitutes compliance is
"We have put together a steering committee to
coordinate information we feel INS will want us to provide," said John Godfrey, assistant dean of
international education at the Rackham School.
What do we let students do once they are
International students who get visas still will face
restrictions once they get to U-M. For instance, individuals wanting
to study select bio-hazardous agentssuch as anthrax, Ebola and the
plaguewill have to undergo background checks, and may be denied
access to these agents altogether, Hartle said.
There are two distinct areas of research
affected, said Tobin Smith, director of federal relations for
research, based at the University's Washington
office: classified research and fundamental research.
"We need to make sure there is no gray area
between these two categories so that our students are not
inadvertently hindered from legitimate research," he said.
One of U-M's key roles will be keeping in
regular communication with international students,
panel members said. "We must explain new
requirements to our international students and be clear about
the consequences of not fulfilling them so they can
act on their own prerogative," said Rodolfo Altamirano, director of the International Center.
Panelists said faculty should discuss these
issues with students and others in their departments.
"If you have students in the field overseas," Lewis said to faculty
members in the audience, "you should be in contact with them
now." He advised faculty to warn international students that
if they go home for the holidays, they may not be let back in the