Over the past few years, partisanship in Washington has grown to the point that few substantive bills become law. The partisan divide at times seems insurmountable. Immigration reform has a chance to be a rare bipartisan exception.
Our nation has long prided itself on being a land of opportunity for those seeking a better life. With time, however, our immigration system has broken down. The system neither fairly serves those who want to come here nor maximizes the economic opportunities that immigrants can provide for this nation.
Recognizing this, Congress may finally act. While the U.S. House of Representatives is still developing legislation, immigration reform is steadily moving forward in the Senate where a bipartisan "Gang of Eight" drafted a strong bill that is serving as the legislative foundation. The Senate is currently debating amendments to this proposal with a vote on the overall measure expected this week.
This bill deserves the full support of higher education because it presents an extraordinary opportunity for our nation, including colleges and universities whose missions to promote education, research and economic growth will be advanced with immigration reform. Those of us in higher education must seize this moment to urge our senators to pass this bill. While the situation seems ripe for agreement, we know far too well that even the smallest bumps in the road can cause this process to unravel. It’s critical to underscore that a well-stocked pool of talent at American universities will feed directly into American businesses and create new ones that will help power our nation’s economy forward. The more we collectively make the case for the economic benefits of reform, the better the chances for overwhelming passage.
The bipartisan bill moving steadily through the Senate is filled with an array of provisions that have been long overdue. The measure establishes an expedited pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants. These young people are here through no decision of their own and 65,000 of them graduate from U.S. high schools each year. They should have a process in place to become citizens. And they also should have the opportunity to go to their states' public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates at the state’s discretion while participating in federal student loan and work study programs. The Senate bill would make all of this possible.
The Gang of Eight and many others also recognize the economically self-defeating policy of training the best international STEM students at U.S. universities only to force them to leave for no reason other than a lack of employment visas. To fix this, the bill streamlines and expands the green card process and eliminates many of the current system’s worst features. To be fair, there are some further improvements the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) would still like to see made either through the amendment process now or in conjunction with action in the House, such as ensuring that agriculture, natural resource, and other science fields are included within the definition of STEM. Nevertheless, overall the provisions in the bill are a vast improvement from the current system.
And just as important as having the best and brightest students in our classrooms is having the top professors from around the world to teach them. APLU and our fellow higher education associations worked very hard to successfully secure an amendment to rid the bill of several bureaucratic hurdles that would impede some universities utilizing the H-1B visa process that authorizes such temporary work. As a result of advocacy efforts with federal relations officers of many universities, higher education associations, and the critical support of the Gang of Eight, the bill no longer places some universities within a suspect class of H-1B users considered H-1B skilled worker dependent employers.
Those opposed to immigration reform are aggressively working to derail any action. They are calling, e-mailing, tweeting, mailing, faxing, and doing everything they can to overwhelm House and Senate offices in order to block reform. To counter that, the higher education community must unite and let our lawmakers know that those other voices do not represent the majority of Americans.
The Senate bill includes most of the changes those of us in the higher education community have been seeking for the past several decades. Now that we find them included in a comprehensive immigration bill making its way through Congress we cannot allow this chance to slip away. Doing so is important for higher education, but most of all it is important for our country.
Peter McPherson is president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
Bard College, in New York, has entered into a partnership with Soochow University, in China, to include the establishment of the Bard College Liberal Arts Academy in Soochow University, an undergraduate degree program modeled on Bard’s curriculum. Students who complete the four-year undergraduate program, on Soochow’s campus, would receive bachelor's degrees from both institutions.
Internationally, Bard already awards dual degrees in cooperation with universities in Germany (ECLA of Bard), Kyrgyzstan (the American University of Central Asia), Russia (Smolny College), and the West Bank (Al-Quds University).
Professors at Hebrew University are objecting to a plan to add some single-sex courses (in which female instructors would not be permitted to teach male students) as part of a plan to attract ultra-Orthodox Jewish students, Haaretz reported. Israel is currently in the midst of a national debate on how to better integrate ultra-Orthodox Jews into society, and how to encourage more of them to get a (secular) higher education and to pursue employment. Some universities are adding gender-segregated classes to make these students more comfortable and there is a plan for Hebrew University to do so. But administrators -- facing widespread faculty opposition last week -- held off on seeking a vote on the idea. Professors say that segregated classes would be illegal, would discriminate against women and violates academic norms.
The latest leaks from Edward Snowden, provided to The South China Morning Post, focus on U.S. National Security Agency hacking of backbone computer networks at China's Tsinghua University. A Post article said that documents provided by Snowden showed the hacking to be "intensive." On one day, 63 computers and networks were hacked by the NSA.
Europe's universities need to focus on teaching, and to assure that all professors and instructors know how to teach, says a new report from the European Union's High-Level Group on the Modernization of Higher Education. The report calls for "certified teacher training" for all instructors by 2020. A statement from the co-chairs of the working group said: "[M]any higher education institutions do not place enough emphasis on teaching in comparison to research, even though both are core missions of higher education. This needs rebalancing. The role of teaching in defining academic merit needs a stronger emphasis and recognition, especially in career terms. Ultimately, we should not forget that this is about the students -- how to offer them the best possible learning environment and education."
Six Chinese students studying wine-making in the Bordeaux region of France were attacked Saturday morning in an incident the country’s interior minister has condemned as xenophobic, Reuters reported. One student was seriously injured after being struck in the face by a bottle. Two suspects have been arrested.
Chen Guangcheng, the dissident from China who has held a fellowship at New York University for the last year, said that NYU was kicking him out because of concerns that his criticism of China was harming the university's interests there, The New York Times reported. While speculation about Chen's departure has circulated for several days, his statement Sunday was Chen's first on the matter. He and others have noted that NYU has a new campus in Shanghai and that many NYU faculty members need visas to travel back and forth to China. “The work of the Chinese Communists within academic circles in the United States is far greater than what people imagine, and some scholars have no option but to hold themselves back,” Chen said. “Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime.”
NYU responded with its own statement, denying that Chinese politics had anything to do with Chen's departure. The issue was simply that his fellowship was over, the university said. “We are very discouraged to learn of Mr. Chen’s statement, which contains a number of speculations about the role of the Chinese government in N.Y.U.’s decision-making that are both false and contradicted by the well-established facts,” said an NYU spokesman.
Scientists in Russia are objecting to the addition of a theology department at the National Research Nuclear University, in Moscow, RIA Novosti reported. Many researchers see the move as inappropriate at a secular university and inconsistent with the focus on science at the institution. Leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, however, say that the administration thought of the idea of adding the department, and that it will offer a wide range of programs.