“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isaiah 56:7).
Dear Members of the Seminary Community,
As people of faith, we confess that God’s beloved community is a global vision of the Gospel, encompassing people around the world. This is why international students and scholars are a vital part of the Seminary community.
On Monday our beloved community was threatened by an unforeseen announcement from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). When almost every school moved to online education last March, the Student Exchange and Visitor Program of ICE allowed all visas to remain intact, but on Monday they announced a new policy that will revoke F-1 visas for any student whose educational program is completely online. We have 33 international students studying with us in the fall, and 23 of them would be affected by this precipitous change in policy.
To our international students, I want to assure you that the Seminary will do everything within its power to ensure that you can continue your education here. You are cherished members of our community, and you belong here.
The new policy appears to allow visas to be maintained in a hybrid academic program, which is what we have been planning, as long as the international students are taking some face to face instruction. The Office of Multicultural Relations and Academic Affairs are monitoring this situation closely. And they are developing a plan to ensure that any international students who are on campus this fall will be able to enroll in courses with in-person components so as to comply with the new regulations in a manner that is safe for students and faculty.
As the implications of this hastily announced new policy from ICE continue to change, we will be watching this closely and staying in regular touch with those who are affected. There has been tremendous resistance to this unforeseen change by schools across the nation. Harvard has called the policy cruel and reckless and has joined MIT in filing a lawsuit. Others including Princeton University have announced their intention to file an amicus brief. Educational associations are lobbying to overturn the policy. We are doing the same. And we have joined in the petitions that are protesting what is obviously a political agenda to punish schools that are not fully open in the fall.
International students are a vital part of our covenant community and cherished members of the body of Christ, and we cannot fulfill our mission without their presence and participation. We are doing all that we can to ensure no one succeeds in cutting these students off from the rest of the body here.
I want to thank Dean Lapsley, Dr. Oliver, and Dr. Aloyo, who are working hard on this pressing issue. As more details and plans become clear they will stay in communication with you.
M. Craig Barnes
President, Princeton Theological Seminary