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USF Answers International Students' Concerns Over What Trump Presidency Means

Mark Schreiner
WUSF 89.7 News
USF students show their native flags at the International Festival in November 2015.

Days ahead of President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, many of the 4,800 international students at the University of South Florida have questions about what the new administration means for their future in America.

Representatives of two groups, USF World and INTO USF, sat down with University Beat to talk about how they're attempting to assuage those concerns. 

"Our international students often come from countries that don't have a peaceful transition in democracy and may not even have a democracy as we understand it in the United States and so they do have anxieties as it relates to their visa status and current plans for student success at the university," said System Vice President for USF World Roger Brindley.

"A lot of our work has been around reassuring them, at this point in time, there is no change in their visa status," he added. "Any process underway will remain underway for them - they remain current in their visa status. And so we need to reassure them that they remain part of their broader university community, they're valued, they're respected just as our domestic students are, they have a home here, and taking the time to sit and listen and take away their fears and make them comfortable is an important part of what we do."

In addition, any action involving changes to how the U.S. handles such students would take some time.

WUSF's Mark Schreiner (left) talks to Glen Besterfield, Asst. Vice President of International Admissions and Global Partnerships and System Vice President for USF World Roger Brindley.

"What we call the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is really secondary or tertiary in the discussions about immigration reform in America," said Glen Besterfield, Asst. Vice President of International Admissions and Global Partnerships.

"The SEVP really hasn't been discussed  up to this point, so we're fairly confident that we won't see immediate changes in that at all and that could take quite a bit of time for those changes to evolve."

But there's another group of students that are keeping a close eye on what Trump's immigration plans may include - "DREAMers," or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

"The university's going to follow federal law," Brindley said. "Beyond that, we need to reassure these students that, at this point in time, anything is speculative and we just need to give them a little perspective, help them breathe,  and reassure them that nothing at this point has changed."

"There are efforts ongoing around higher education organizations nationally to create position statements that they think should help in Washington as we go through the presidential transition," Brindley added. "But as a university by ourselves, it's very important our students understand that, at this time, nothing's changed, and that we will address change as it comes, but we're doing them less than a favor if we try and speculate ahead of time."

You can hear more from Brindley and Besterfield by clicking on the audio link above.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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