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Schools And Tech Companies Sue On Behalf Of International Students : NPR

Pedestrians in Harvard Yard in 2019. Schools and businesses have gone to court to stop the Trump administration from barring online-only international students from entering or staying in the U.S.

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Pedestrians in Harvard Yard in 2019. Schools and businesses have gone to court to stop the Trump administration from barring online-only international students from entering or staying in the U.S.

Charles Krupa/AP

One week ago, the Trump administration announced it would ban international students from attending U.S. colleges in the fall if they only take online classes. Now, hundreds of colleges and universities, dozens of cities, and some of the country’s biggest tech companies are pushing back.

In several court filings Friday and Monday, the groups stand with the international students. They argue providing remote education is crucial given how contagious COVID-19 is — and they say crafted policies for the fall by depending on earlier assurances from the federal government that international students would be able to attend class remotely “for the duration of the emergency,” while still retaining their F-1 or M-1 visa status.

They’re supporting an initial legal challenge by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first to sue the administration over its new policy. Existing law had prohibited international students from taking all their courses online, but the administration temporarily lifted that rule in March.

In a response Monday, the government said that just because it offered leniency in March, it doesn’t have to extend that policy through the fall. The request to do so “subverts the deference afforded administrative agencies in complex and interrelated fields like immigration enforcement,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wrote.

According to the Institute of International Education, more than 1 million international students take courses in the U.S. — about 5% of the total student body.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “blindsided the whole of higher education,” more than 180 colleges and universities wrote in their amicus brief filed with the federal district court in Massachusetts, where Harvard’s challenge is being heard. The schools range from small private colleges to large public universities, spread across the nation. “Though diverse in faith, academic mission, geography, and size, these institutions are deeply concerned with and impacted by ICE’s July 6 directive,” they wrote.

“ICE’s abrupt policy change guts the enormous reliance interests of higher education institutions and their students—all of whom planned for the fall 2020 semester based on ICE’s earlier confirmation that its March 2020 position would remain so long as the ’emergency’ continued,” the schools wrote.

They’re arguing that, legally, ICE can’t just change its mind after so many schools spent months crafting policies based on the government’s guidance. To change course so completely without adequate justification is “arbitrary and capricious,” the schools wrote, citing the legal standard used by courts.

They are asking the federal court to put a hold on the government’s proposal until the courts can rule on its legality.

When the coronavirus began to spread, schools across the country moved their coursework online. And they immediately had to make hard decisions about the fall term. The California State University system — one of the largest higher education systems in the country, with 480,000 students — felt it would be “irresponsible” to postpone a decision on in-person classes until the summer. “Because of its size, the CSU system had to sacrifice flexibility for certainty,” the filing says. So CSU decided in the spring that its 23 campuses would mostly offer classes remotely for the fall term.

The administration’s plan could be catastrophic to some schools. At the Stevens Institute of Technology — a private research university in Hoboken, N.J. — international students make up one-third of its overall student body, and 61% of graduate students. “With such a large volume of international students, inability to continue educating these students would be devastating,” the schools wrote.

And international students make “immense contributions” to campuses nationwide, they said, fostering diversity and enhancing schools’ intellectual and athletic competitiveness. Blocking these students from attending American schools would only send them elsewhere, giving an advantage to foreign nations, the schools said.

An amicus brief filed by America’s top technology companies makes a similar point. International students are both customers and future employees of these companies, wrote Google, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Adobe and others in a filing Monday. If international students lose their visas and are forced to return home, American businesses and the economy at large will suffer, they said.

In addition to the tens of billions of dollars that international students contribute directly to the U.S. economy each year, they also help ensure that American companies “continue leading the world in innovation,” they wrote.

And without international students, American schools will suffer, they said: “The loss of international students as a result of the July 6 Directive threatens the very existence of educational programs — for both American and international students — that are critical to training the employees U.S. businesses need and supporting the research that enables America to lead the world in innovation.”

If international students are barred from studying in the U.S. until the coronavirus pandemic is over, the companies said, many will simply never return. Companies in turn won’t be able to recruit those students. And the entire economy will suffer.

Dozens of municipalities filed their own brief in support of Harvard and MIT’s challenge. International students “make significant economic contributions” to their communities, wrote the municipalities, which include Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, New York and about two dozen other cities large and small.

“In New York City, international students contribute more than $3 billion in economic value annually,” they wrote. “In Pittsburgh, one job is created for every two international students enrolled in the city’s colleges and universities. And in Iowa City, the 2,500 resident international students at the University of Iowa contribute millions of dollars to the city’s economy annually.”

The federal government’s “rash” decision could also have health consequences, they wrote: It’s “likely to send students threatened with removal into the shadows, where public health efforts will not reach them, in the midst of a pandemic.”

The Massachusetts court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Tuesday.

Several other organizations have filed their own lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s new policy. Massachusetts filed a federal suit joined by attorneys general in 16 states and the District of Columbia; Johns Hopkins University filed suit Friday; and the University of California system has pledged its own lawsuit.

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Calgary students battle Islamophobia during Islam Awareness Week – Calgary

Students at Mount Royal University in Calgary are fighting Islamophobia by educating themselves and others about Islam.

It’s all part of United Islam Awareness Week, an event that runs from Jan. 20 to 24 and is designed to dispel Islamophobia.

The Muslim Student Affiliations, an on-campus group for Islamic students, is marking UIAW by hosting a speaker series featuring scholars with real-life experiences dealing with racism.

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Dilly Hussain, the deputy editor of Muslim news website 5 Pillars, was the first speaker of MRU’s weeklong series.

Hussain said he has seen a rise in Islamophobia in Europe and the United States, and hopes more people start having tough conversations about religious differences.

“If there is a growing sentiment among non-Muslims in the Western world that Muslims believe in x, y and z or they find certain rituals or beliefs problematic or in contradiction with secular liberal values, then we need to have that conversation,” said Hussain.

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He said his presentation on Monday night focused on Muslims becoming more vocal, especially during tenuous political times.

“The situation isn’t getting any better,” Hussain said. “So the best thing to do is not to become shelled inside. You actually need to be out there and engaged.”

Lectures on combating Islamophobia run through the week at MRU’s Jenkins Theatre at 6:30 p.m. Upcoming topics include “Quran Burning Doubt” and “Is Jihad Lit.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Long Island school’s ‘culturally insensitive’ photo of black students with monkey leads to lawsuit

The students said they were embarrassed and ashamed by the presentation.

A group of black high school students on Long Island claims their science teacher included racially insensitive images in a class presentation that referenced them as monkeys and now they’re planning to sue.

Longwood High School students Jahkeem Moye, Khevin Beaubrun, Gykye Murray and Desmond Dent Jr. said a white teacher presented a slideshow to the class that included a photo of them posing at the Bronx Zoo with the caption “Monkey Do” followed by an image of a gorilla.

The students said they were embarrassed and ashamed by the presentation, according to court documents filed this week. The families served a notice of claim Wednesday indicating their plans to sue Longwood Central School District for discrimination and emotional distress.

“I didn’t know that they were going to put [the photo] in that perspective and show us, compare us to monkeys,” Murray told reporters Wednesday.

In the same press conference, Beaubrun said he was threatened by school administrators to delete a Snapchat video that showcased the slideshow presentation or face suspension.

“I said they had used us like slaves. I posted it on Snapchat, on social media, and he asked me to take it down,” Beaubrun said, referring to his advanced zoology teacher.

Their attorney claims teachers “deliberately persuaded, tricked and cajoled” them into posing together near a Bronx Zoo gorilla exhibit during a class trip in November. The teacher captured the picture and included it in the class presentation about a month later, according to their attorney.

The teacher, identified only as Mr. Heinrichs, allegedly placed the photo in a slideshow between an image of monkeys with the caption “Monkey See,” and an image of a gorilla “thereby misusing the pidgin expression, ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’ for racially discriminatory and offensive purposes,” according to the notice of claim.

The families plan to sue for $12 million, accusing the school of discriminating against the students and violating their civil rights.

The Longwood School District declined to identify the teacher and would not say if he had been disciplined. The district called the images “culturally insensitive” and attributed the situation to a “lapse of judgement.”

“The photo was an unfortunate lapse of judgment,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Lonergan said in a statement Wednesday. “Without the intent of doing so, the photo was taken without fully understanding the sensitivity or the hurt it may have caused and reminds us that we must be more aware of the feelings of our multi-cultural population.”

But the students’ attorney, John Ray, said the teacher involved was still teaching as of this week.

“These students are deeply wounded and shamed,” Ray said. “This is institutionalized racial superiority. … There can’t be any question about what they meant.”

“Remember, this is a zoology class, evolution is taught,” he added.

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Tulane black medical students share ‘powerful’ photo at plantation

15 Tulane medical students pose in front of the slave quarters at the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana.

The image of 15 black Tulane University medical students standing tall in front of the slave quarters of a Louisiana plantation has captured the attention of social media. 

Russell Ledet, who came up with the idea to take the photo — one of a few taken that day by Abedoyin Johnson at the Whitney Plantation — wants it to capture the attention of children in classrooms worldwide. 

The photo is well on its way. It’s been shared thousands of times across Instagram and Twitter since Ledet shared it with the caption, “We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.” 

“The reality of it is, this is a representation that we’re here,” Ledet, a 33-year-old second-year medical student at Tulane, told USA TODAY on Thursday. “We’re present. We’re unapologetically black and present. In white coats. You need to be able to look at that photo and take that in, accept it and be alright with it.”

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Ledet said he got the the idea to visit the plantation with his classmates after first seeing the plantation over the summer with his daughter, who said it was “amazing” to see a black doctor in America. She added, “We’ve come a really long way,” Ledet said. 

Sydney Labat, a fellow second-year medical student who also shared photos from the day, said the point was to show younger generations that what she and her classmates are doing is possible for them, too. 

15 Tulane medical students pose in front of the slave quarters at the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana.

“This is your future in every way, shape and form,” Labat said. “You can do this. Hopefully, going through their heads is something like, ‘These people look like me.’ I think we know it’s not a secret that there aren’t, in classrooms, very many pictures of black people doing substantial things, besides being an athlete.

“Just showing them that you can be academically excellent. You can choose to enter the path of medicine with your academic excellence. You can be smart, you can be beautiful and you can be black all at the same time.” 

Dr. Lee Hamm, Tulane University School of Medicine dean and senior vice president, called the pictures “powerful.” 

“Our students are our greatest strength and we applaud their sense of purpose, community and service,” Hamm said in a statement to USA TODAY. 

“Powerful” is what the students were aiming for, Labat said. 

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Students east of Edmonton take on project to build beds for children in need – Edmonton

A number of schools east of Edmonton have partnered with a local charity to help ensure children in the area who don’t have a proper bed will get one.

On Wednesday, Elk Island Public Schools (EIPS) issued a news release about the initiative, which sees Bev Facey Community High School, F.R. Haythorne Junior High School and Strathcona Christian Academy Secondary work with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a charity that operates in Strathcona County.

EIPS said students at the schools had learned from the charity about sleeping conditions some families in the area are enduring and “agreed to turn their construction labs into bed-producing workshops to help the charity meet demand.”

“Each school pledged to build 60 beds, and under the guidance of their construction teachers, students of all grade levels got to cutting, routing and sanding bedframes and bundling the finished pieces for delivery,” Laura McNabb, director of communication services for EIPS, said in a news release.

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According to the school division, many students took part in assembling the beds themselves.

“Building these beds with my class made me realize how fortunate I am,” said Sarah Weidmann, a Grade 12 construction student at Bev Facey. “I can’t remember a time where I didn’t have a bed with pillows and blankets to sleep on.

“These families who are having trouble meeting their basic needs are out there and we don’t even realize it. By building these beds, I know we’re helping to make a difference for these kids.”

Students at F.R. Haythorne also planned a school dance and a “game-a-thon” to raise money to buy bedding for the initiative. EIPS said that fundraising campaign raised nearly $2,250 and was able to purchase 44 sets of bedding.

“The initiative students have shown in organizing this fundraiser is inspiring,” said Erin Clark, an assistant principal at F.R. Haythorne. “They were responsible for all of it, from the initial planning, to the organizing and running of the events.

“We’re so proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish.”

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According to EIPS, some beds were already delivered to families but more are still to come.

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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