Supporting Champlain’s International Student Community

Dear Champlain Community,

You may have seen news about new guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) requiring international students to return to their home countries if their institutions move to online-only instruction this fall. We want to share how this impacts Champlain’s international student community and the actions we are taking.

Champlain College is committed to the safety, well-being, and academic success of our international students—currently 26 students who come from 25 different countries. As many of you know, our Office of International Student Services (OISS), led by Jessa Karki, is the “home away from home” for our international students, providing services to help them successfully navigate the cultural and regulatory landscapes of studying, living, and working in the U.S. OISS, with help from Academic Affairs, the Registrar’s Office, Student Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion (SADI), and Enrollment Management, is working to support and advocate for our newly admitted and current international students in the face of this new rule.

As we’ve shared, Champlain is planning to offer an academic model for the Fall 2020 semester called Flex-Hybrid. At this time, we believe the Flex-Hybrid model allows Champlain’s F-1 international students already in the U.S. to meet the SEVP rule for in-person instruction. Most of our international students fall into this category. We are working with a few of our students outside of the U.S. who will need to decide whether to travel to the U.S. or risk terminating their legal status in order to take Champlain classes from their home countries.

While our plan to offer the option of in-person instruction through our Flex-Hybrid model mitigates most of the impact of the federal guidance on our campus, our broad concerns about this rule echo those raised in the public reactions to date — including financial, academic, public health, and logistical concerns. Our primary issue is with the discriminatory nature of the rule and the sharp disconnect with Champlain’s institutional values of inclusion, engaged learning, and interconnectedness.

As a former international student who came to the U.S. to further my education, I believe strongly in the importance of global education and the benefits of a robust international student community. We have shared our stance with the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges (AVIC). AVIC is working with Senator Leahy, who is concerned about the implications of this rule on Vermont colleges and universities and our students. We support the statement issued by the American Council on Education (ACE) president Ted Mitchell. This past spring and summer, a temporary exemption was issued to allow for online course options, and we believe this should be extended given the status of the pandemic and the importance of international students to our campus.

I encourage international students and their families as well as concerned faculty, staff, and students to direct any questions to Jessa Karki, Director of the Office of International Student Services, at OISS will also be hosting a live Zoom session with newly admitted international students next week on this guidance and other regulatory matters.



Benjamin Ola. Akande, Ph.D.