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International student reopening message

June 24, 2020

Dear Global Badgers,

Last week, Chancellor Blank announced that campus will reopen in fall 2020 and that classes will resume in person September 2. We know there are many uncertainties still for our international students, and we acknowledge how stressful it is not having the information you need to make decisions for the fall semester. We assure you that we are listening to your concerns and are working quickly to address the questions we can, provide clarity on those we cannot, and advocate for you in spaces we can influence.

Federal policy guidance has been slow regarding the availability of student visas for return to campus with a hybrid (remote and in-person) course delivery plan. With that in mind, and understanding your needs to make decisions soon, we offer the following guidance.

If you are currently outside the U.S. or unable to be on campus – With many U.S. consulates closed and the COVID-19 pandemic still a concern, we understand that travel may not be possible or could be delayed beyond our scheduled start date. The university is working to make options available for remote instruction in every undergraduate major and in as many graduate and professional school programs as we can so that students can begin or continue studies if unable to secure the required F-1 or J-1 student visa or travel to the U.S. before September 2. We’ll know more when the course schedule is updated the week of July 20, at which point we encourage you to work with your academic advisor or graduate program coordinator to discuss options that will help you stay on schedule with your degree completion. If you are a new undergraduate or transfer student, you will be able to connect with an academic advisor during student orientation (SOAR).

The university is also working to determine whether teaching, research, project assistantships and fellowships, and other on-campus employment will be feasible for students not located in the U.S. We expect to have additional information about these situations available soon.

If you are currently in the U.S. or will be on campus – According to current federal policy, students need to enroll in a specific number of in-person credits to maintain their student visa. If this is not possible due to medical or safety concerns, please review the reduced course load requirements to see if they may apply to your situation or contact your academic advisor or graduate program coordinator to discuss alternative options to stay on schedule. You can reach out to International Student Services (ISS) with questions about maintaining your student immigration status. Again, new students will be able to connect with an academic advisor during SOAR.

Course schedules – While we are working to provide remote learning opportunities in every undergraduate major and in as many graduate and professional school programs as possible, not all courses will be offered remotely. All courses with more than 50 students will be remote, with a very small number of exceptions. We have urged instructors to provide video options when possible for students who cannot attend in-person or live-broadcast classes. You can expect the majority of updates to the modality of instruction (in-person or remote), day, room, and time of your classes to be published and made to your schedule during the week of July 20. After this, you will be able to view your current schedule and make changes as needed. Reach out to your academic advisor or graduate program coordinator after the course schedule changes have been published for further support and specific guidance.

Enrollment and visa considerations – We have stated that no student will be required to attend classes in person. However, we know remote learning is not straightforward for our international students whose visas prohibit them from attending a majority of courses remotely from inside the U.S. Our schools and colleges are working on creative and case-by-case solutions within our control to help keep our international students on schedule. We also continue to advocate at the federal level for temporary reprieve from the in-person class requirement this fall semester. Unfortunately, we don’t know when or if that reprieve will be granted. We encourage you to reach out to your school or college, your graduate program coordinator, International Student Services, or Admissions (for new incoming students) if you need immediate support for your specific situation.

We will continue to advocate for federal policy guidance that is clear, equitable, and keeps you safe. There are several regulatory and policy changes under consideration that would significantly challenge the innovative teaching, learning and research we are so proud of at UW–Madison. We are tracking a recent executive order to suspend entry of some non-immigrants, as well as actions that would place restrictions on a temporary international student work program and bar entry of some Chinese graduate students and researchers. Ensuring our international students can fully participate in the Wisconsin Experience is among our top priorities.

Finally, your physical safety and mental well-being are primary considerations as we make decisions. We’re acutely aware of the many equity and social justice challenges that have surfaced during the pandemic, including the upsurge in bias and hate incidents against our Asian students and other communities of color. We remain deeply committed to our work, together and with others, to create a campus free of bias, discrimination and hate, and where all students, staff, and faculty can reach their full potential.

There are many questions we cannot yet answer, but we want you to know that we value you and the influence you have on our campus and in our Madison communities. Your many contributions to research, innovation, collaboration, and intercultural learning have helped create a more globally engaged Wisconsin Experience for us all. Please continue to check the ISS and Smart Restart websites for updates. We will do all we can to help you join us as a Badger this fall.

In support,

Karl Scholz, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Lori Reesor, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs