Graduate Committee at Pitt Applauds Reversal of International Student Rule

CONTACTR.J. Hufnagel, 412-562-2450

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) at the University of Pittsburgh applauded today’s reversal by the Trump administration of new guidelines that it had issued earlier this month that could have forced thousands of international students to leave the country.

The Trump administration had issued a directive to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on July 6 that international students pursuing degrees at universities in the United States would lose their visas and face deportation if their classes were online-only this fall as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are happy to see the reversal of this unnecessary, arbitrary and potentially devastating policy, a decision that never should have been made in the first place,” said Alnica Visser, a fifth-year doctoral candidate in philosophy. “International students are an absolutely essential part of this campus, this city and this nation. We should never have faced a potential choice between our education and our livelihood, and the health and well-being of ourselves and our loved ones.” 

The reversal of the policy comes after more than a week of intense activism by international students and supporters both at Pitt and across the country calling for the rule to be scrapped. On Monday, Pitt filed a brief supporting a lawsuit by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University seeking a reversal of the administration’s directive to ICE. State attorneys general also filed suit over the policy.

The GSOC is seeking to organize Pitt grad students into the United Steelworkers (USW) union. The workers fell just short in a vote to join the USW in April 2019, an outcome that came as a result of unfair labor practices by the university.

A Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board hearing examiner ordered a new election, but the university contested that ruling. In its effort to fight unionization by grad students, as well as a concurrent campaign by the university faculty to join the USW, Pitt has spent more than $1 million to employ infamous union-busting firm Ballard Spahr of Philadelphia.

“This reversal is a significant victory for this student body, and it shows the true power of collective action to effect change. We are glad that, in this case, Pitt did the right thing, but the administration must do far more to support its international students,” said Visser. “Pitt should immediately halt its union-busting efforts and redirect those resources to support the students, faculty and community during this incredibly difficult time.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, mining, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, the service, public and health care sectors and higher education. 

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Media Contacts

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USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

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60 Blvd. of the Allies
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