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InstituteTo Limit SEVIS Reports

By Beckett W. Sterner


MIT will only report basic data on international students to the federal government, administrators say.

“The [International Students Office] will only report to the SEVIS system data which is federally-mandated and nothing more,” said Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook, director of ISO and associate dean for graduate students.

Rather than provide complete registration data, MIT will provide only the date and status of registration, and only the most extreme disciplinary actions will be reported, said Dean of Graduate Students Isaac M. Colbert.

Originally, information disseminated by the International Students Office did not explicitly specify what would be sent to the government. The office, instead, provided a list of categories of information, such as “Registration Each Term” and “Disciplinary Action,” sent to the government, without specifying the amount of information to be supplied.

“There are issues that lack clarity,” Colbert said. “We’re feeling our way along.”

Colbert said that currently MIT will report to the federal Student Exchange Visitor Information System, a new system to track international students in the U.S., only the date and status of registration as well as a disciplinary action that leads to expulsion.

“Even if there’s some Committee on Discipline action that’s short of dismissal, we don’t see a need to report that,” Colbert said.

MIT handles reporting cautiously

“The ISO will do everything it possibly can to protect the privacy of international students but of course we must abide by federal mandates,” Guichard-Ashbrook said.

Colbert said that “we’re going to take a conservative approach” to reporting.

He also said that MIT is currently “working out” its potential response to an action or request for information by the Federal Bureau of Investigations about a student.

A press release from the Immigration and Naturalization Service on May 10, 2002, stated that the SEVIS data must include “any disciplinary action taken by the school against the student as a result of the student being convicted of a crime.”

Input on SEVIS limited

Currently, the avenues for comments and complaints about the new system are limited for both students and administrators.

Colbert said that if the government were to investigate a student, “we’ve been told not to interfere ... our entreaties will have no bearing.”

He said that MIT will “work as quietly and effectively in the right quarters” to express opposition to any policy with an unnecessarily negative effect on students.

Ruby Y. Lau ’04, president of the International Students Association, said that her friends were upset about new registration process. She said that there were “definitely not enough channels to voice their complaints.”

She said that she wanted the MIT administration “just to give [international students] more help and support.”

Nathan Collins and Kathy Lin contributed to the reporting of this story.