Chants of “no hate, no fear, everyone belongs here” filled the air in the North Oval as the OU community came together for the Protect OUr Students rally Monday morning.
The rally was organized by students to take a stand against the recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's guidance that would force international students to go back to their home country if all of their classes are online.
The organizers of the event also sent a list of nine demands to the university, including ensuring that international students will have an in-person class to meet ICE requirements and giving international students support from the Academic Affairs office.
Many international students spoke at the rally, including Amer Begovic, a rising senior in the OU Price College of Business and International Advisory Committee president.
“I feel inspired,” Begovic said. “I feel hopeful just getting the support from the OU community, it’s incredible. It is a hard time for us, and hard for us to have hope and be positive. But seeing the community response, and seeing that people will support us and do support us, it does bring hope and positivity.”
Begovic said he hopes this rally will begin a national dialogue on this issue.
“Having OU provide accommodations for international students is like putting a bandaid on a wound,” Begovic said. “Having the whole guidance rescinded is healing the wound, and that’s what we should focus on.”
OU faculty and staff also voiced their support for international students.
“This policy change took everyone across higher education by surprise,” Scott Fritzen, dean of the David L. Boren College of International Studies and head of the International Student Response Task Force for this issue, said. “We were all caught breathless by this breathtaking step of heightening the insecurities of international students.”
Fritzen said he hopes all three OU campuses come together to support the fight for this issue.
“This is threatening to have multi-dimensional impacts on our international students,” Fritzen said. “It’s so important to coordinate across our different functions to make sure we have the planning and support in place to ensure this doesn’t upend the lives of international students.”
Many international students have previously shared their fear of this guidance and their hope for a stronger response from OU.
Fritzen, who entered the position of dean July 1, said he has heard a lot of support for what the university is trying to do.
“It’s important for us to be on the same page as a university community,” Fritzen said. “I have heard nothing but expressions of deep support with what we are trying to do in fighting this policy and putting supports in place for international students.”
David Surratt, vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students, also showed his support for international students.
“My hope is that there is a unified voice across colleges and universities across the country,” Surratt said. “This policy that’s been put forward that may be put in place is a tremendous threat to all of our international students, but also to the value and the mission of our education system and colleges and universities in the country.”
Surratt said he was adamant many faculty members at OU are committed to fighting with the students.
“I think we (as a university) will continue to listen and hear the list of demands,” Surratt said. “There is a commitment from myself and other administrators to make sure that this policy — if it’s put forth — we will make sure our students are protected.”