Chancellor Subbaswamy's Message to the Campus Community in Support of International Students

July 9, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

Earlier this week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a set of new draft regulations with potentially severe negative consequences for international students who already face many challenges as a result of the pandemic. In my opinion, these changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which are directed at non-immigrant students on F-1 and M-1 visas for academic and vocational study, are misguided, mean spirited, and contemptible. If enacted, the new ICE regulations would jeopardize the well-being and success of the nearly 3,400 international students studying on our campus, and the many thousands more across the country who bring invaluable perspectives and experiences and enrich the intellectual capital and social fabric of our nation.

I condemn this assault on our international students and want to assure you that the UMass administration will do everything within our power to thwart the negative consequences of these regulations. To our international students, I would like to say unequivocally that you are welcome here and we will do our utmost to support your academic aspirations as members of the UMass community. Some of the preliminary steps we have taken include:

  • The International Programs Office (IPO) has communicated with our international students, assuring them that they are a valued part of our university community and reiterating our commitment to their well-being and success.
  • On Tuesday, UMass President Marty Meehan issued a statement, condemning the regulations, noting no public good is served by these threats. 
  • As campuses across the country react to these regulations, we support the views expressed by the leadership of two organizations to which we belong, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the American Council on Education (ACE). IPO is actively engaged with APLU, ACE, and other professional organizations, including NAFSA and AIEA, to advocate with elected officials in Washington, D.C. to reverse these regulations.
  • We are consulting retained counsel, stakeholders, and our peer institutions concerning what actions will best safeguard all our international students, whether they are currently abroad or in the U.S.
  • We are working with President Meehan to advocate with the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to call for a reversal of these regulations.
  • We are also working with our Office of General Counsel on understanding possible litigation. We note Harvard and MIT filed a suit Wednesday, which has been joined by other public and private institutions.
  • The Provost and Deans are developing plans to ensure that our international students are in compliance with the regulations under a hybrid model of instruction that includes in-person as well as online courses.

I know many of you want to express condemnation of these new regulations and take action to protect our international students. I encourage you to reach out to the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to share your concerns and let them know how important international students are to the mission of the university.

In the meantime, as we develop action items to respond to these regulations, we will continue to communicate proactively with our international students and the wider UMass community.


Kumble R. Subbaswamy