ODU plans for international students for fall 2020

By Natalie Hockaday


Recently the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the new policy that F-1 and M-1 international students must leave the United States if their college or university is operating completely online for the upcoming fall semester. International students attending schools operating in-person or that adopt a hybrid model of online and in-person courses are exempt from this policy.


ODU will be open and operating as normal for the upcoming semester however, professors are able to transition their classes online at their discretion. Classes for the fall semester start August 15, 2020. Below the office of international programs at ODU answers a few questions regarding the status of international F-1 students at the university for the upcoming semester.


What can international students expect for the upcoming fall semester at ODU?

“The broadcast message released on July 6, 2020 states that F1 international students may not be in a fully online program in the Fall semester, but may take more than the normal maximum of online courses for the requirements of their degree completion. Normally, F1 students are permitted to take 1 course/3 credit hours of online coursework towards their minimum number of credits required.”


Although ODU is not going fully online this semester, there are a large amount of teachers who made the choice to move their classes online. What will happen to international students who’s classes have moved online even though the university will remain open?

“Teaching faculty, departments, deans, administrators, and so many other groups on campus have come together to do what is necessary to ensure our F1 students have in-person classes on their schedule to meet the new requirements.”


On social media there are a few petitions going around for colleges to add a one credit course for international students to take so that they can remain in the country for their education. Will ODU be implementing this action? Please explain.

“I have seen the petitions and am amazed at our Monarch students coming together to support our F1 population. For now, we have plans to ensure that the courses our F1 students are registered for have an in-person option. We do have faculty members who have offered to plan new courses that would work across the curriculum and meet in person, which is also super generous--we are only weeks away from the start of the semester, and planning a new course usually takes much longer.”


There are international students at the university who also teach or assist other professors. What is the plan for students who are in these positions?

“Our F1 students who are in the US will continue Graduate Assistantships or Teaching Assistantships as usual, and it will be up to the supervisor as to which assignments can be done remotely and which require an on-campus presence.”

Is ODU working alongside any state or federal officials or offices to help international students keep their student visas and continue their study at ODU?

“We have legal counsel assigned to our University, who are actually working within the Commonwealth's Office of Attorney General. President Broderick has also called for the Virginia Attorney General and our federal delegation in Congress to provide guidance and intercede to protect our students.”


There are some countries that have travel bans due to the pandemic. What will international students have to do in the situation where they are restricted from traveling back to their country?

“That is a good question. With travel restrictions and the drastic reduction in international flights, it is logistically impossible for many students to leave the country.”


Will ODU continue their study abroad program for the fall and spring semester?

“Study Abroad at ODU has been cancelled for the Fall semester. Study Abroad for the spring semester is being reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”


What is the overall plan for international students at ODU for the upcoming semester and when will students and faculty be notified about it?

“Old Dominion University held a student forum last week with representatives from all over campus to discuss the guidance and the initial plans. That same group will be holding a faculty forum in the coming days to answer questions and address concerns. This guidance could still change--Harvard, MIT, and several other schools have sued ICE over the validity of the broadcast message, and there should be updates from the Harvard case by July 15. We are making plans (and backup plans) for our students in the scenario where this guidance remains, but we are mindful that the lawsuit may force a different policy.”


All of the answers to these questions were provided by the office of international programs at Old Dominion University.

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