Harvard’s Undergraduate Council launched a petition Tuesday calling on the College to strengthen support for international students during the spring semester.
The petition requests the College extend the petition deadline for students to decide whether to return to campus for the spring semester, require professors to allow a 12-hour window for international students to submit assignments and exams, and offer a hybrid academic program that features an in-person component.
The Council also urged the College to prioritize international freshmen alongside seniors for spring housing if a hybrid model is implemented. If classes continue fully online, the petition requests that Harvard communicate its reasoning for the decision to international freshmen and their families.
Federal visa restrictions prohibited international freshmen from living on campus during the fall semester because all undergraduate courses were held online. As of now, those same restrictions apply for the spring semester.
“This year, international students have found themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally distant from their peers who reside on campus, which has led to severe detrimental effects on their mental health and social lives,” the Council’s petition reads. “Students feel that the administration of the college has completely forgotten them and does not take their needs into consideration when formulating decisions about college life.”
Several Council members said international students’ input guided their drafting of the petition.
“Our job was simply to amplify, because so many incredible and truly phenomenal international students had come to town halls and told us what their concerns were,” said Ivy Yard Representative Tarina K. Ahuja ’24, one of the statement’s sponsors. “They were the catalyst, they were the ones that brought these ideas to us, and it wouldn’t have been anything of what it is without them.”
Samuel H. Taylor ’24, an international student from New Zealand and “citizen sponsor” of the Council petition, said the fall semester was a “disappointing, unenjoyable experience.”
“We’re promised a transformative experience,” he said. “There hasn’t been much of a transformation at all except for the fact that I’ve spent more time inside, up at weird hours of the night, kind of living a shell of a life.”