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A Harvard Law School graduate on campus before attending an online graduation ceremony on May 28. Photo: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Harvard and MIT on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to block federal guidance that would largely bar foreign college students from taking classes if their universities move classes entirely online in the fall.

The big picture: Colleges, which often rely heavily on tuition from international students, face a unique challenge to safely get students back to class during the coronavirus pandemic. Some elite institutions, like Harvard, have already made the decision to go virtual.

  • The schools argued in their complaint that the guidance, issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "leaves hundreds of thousands of international students with no educational options within the United States" and would "undermine the education, safety, and future prospects of their international students and their campus community."
  • They requested a temporary restraining order to block the rules, which is likely to prompt a relatively quick ruling from a federal judge.

What they're saying: Harvard President Lawrence Bacow wrote that the guidance "appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others."

  • "Moreover, if an institution pursues in-person or hybrid instruction this fall and a serious outbreak of COVID-19 occurs, the institution would face strong pressure not to switch to online instruction, as Harvard and others necessarily did this past March, because to do so would immediately place its international students in jeopardy," he added.
  • ICE deputy press secretary Carissa Cutrell said the agency was unable to comment on pending litigation.

Read the complaint.

Go deeper

Oct 15, 2020 - Science

Counting Chinese STEM students in the U.S.

Reproduced from a CSET report; Chart: Axios Visuals

Chinese students make up 16% of all graduate STEM students in the U.S. and 2% of undergraduate STEM students, per a new report from Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Oct 15, 2020 - World

Special report: Europe braces for monster 2nd coronavirus wave

Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The pandemic has come storming back to Europe, and hope of a return to normality is being replaced by a much more ominous prospect: the return to lockdown.

The big picture: Case counts in countries like France and Spain have skyrocketed past the numbers seen during the spring peak. While that’s partially due to more widespread testing, it’s now clear that deaths are climbing too.

Oct 16, 2020 - Health

U.S. reports over 63,000 daily COVID-19 cases

A health worker handling a coronavirus test sample Oct. 15 in Roxbury, Mass. Photo: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

The U.S. reported 63,172 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the nation's highest daily count since July 31 when it saw more than 66,000 new cases in a single day, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

Why it matters: Over 37,000 people are currently being hospitalized due to the virus in the U.S., while the country reported 951 new deaths from the virus. COVID-19 infections jumped by almost 17% over the past week as the number of new cases increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C.

Go deeper: The United States' stubbornly high coronavirus death rate