Author Archive for Columbia SIPA – Page 2

President Bollinger Applauds Reversal of Policy Restricting International Student Visas

Originally published here on July 14, 2020:

On Tuesday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs in Boston announced that the Trump administration had agreed to rescind the policy that prevented international students from maintaining F-1 and M-1 student visas if they were enrolled in an online-only course of study in the fall of 2020.

The decision settles a lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology over the restrictions. Columbia University had filed an amicus brief in support of Harvard and MIT’s legal challenge earlier in the week.

“Thanks to overwhelming opposition from across higher education and beyond, hundreds of thousands of international students have been spared the potentially devastating consequences of this ill-conceived government policy,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. “The outcome in court today can be attributed to the nationwide outcry over a policy at odds with basic American values and basic tenets of public health. This victory should serve as a reminder of the need to loudly and swiftly oppose departures from America’s heritage of embracing the world.”

Earlier in the day, President Bollinger joined with leaders of colleges, universities, students, elected officials, and unions to back New York Attorney General Letitia James and her office’s efforts to oppose the new ICE restrictions.

“I stand in full support of New York Attorney General Letitia James and her efforts to stop this damaging directive before it takes effect,” said Bollinger. “The Attorney General should be commended for adding her voice and the weight of her office to those opposing immigration policies that harm international students and the institutions of higher education that benefit immeasurably from their presence.”

“International students should never be used as political fodder to force colleges to reopen their doors, but the president’s inability to remove politics from public health decisions endangers us all,” said Attorney General James. “The diversity of our colleges and universities is what makes New York schools among the world’s most competitive and most sought after, but President Trump’s reversal in policy not only threatens these innocent students’ educational paths, but our state’s hard-hit economy and the public health of millions of New Yorkers. Schools should never have to choose between enrolling international students in in-person classes and maintaining public health, which is why we will use every legal tool at our disposal to stop the president.”

In an email to the Columbia community on July 7, President Bollinger reached out to international students to voice his opposition to the federal rules, which were provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He reiterated his position in an interview with “All Things Considered” on NPR.

President Bollinger has also spoken out against the Trump administration’s efforts to expand existing restrictions that impede the entry of international faculty, physicians, and research scholars into the U.S.

Columbia to Participate in Litigation Against ICE Restrictions on International Students

Shared by Dean Merit E. Janow on July 9, 2020:

Dear Members of the SIPA Community,

I write to share with you that Columbia University is filing a legal brief in support of the lawsuit initiated yesterday by Harvard and MIT against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s recent directives regarding international students and online learning. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is seeking to deny visas to international students if the only courses they take this fall are entirely online. Harvard, MIT, Columbia, and many other universities are now challenging these misguided directives in court.

As indicated in the announcement below, Columbia’s legal brief will focus on the enormous and incalculable contributions that our international students make to our university community. Nowhere is this more true than at SIPA, where every year about 60 percent of our students are international. We all benefit tremendously from our truly global community at SIPA, and speaking on behalf of the School, we unequivocally support our international students and the University’s participation in this important litigation.

I circulated a message yesterday in which I shared that we are seeking guidance how best to adapt to these evolving circumstance and to provide a path forward for our international students. More information will be shared as soon as possible so that our incoming and continuing international students have as much information as possible in order to plan for the upcoming academic year. We appreciate your patience given this rapidly evolving situation. In the meantime, students are encouraged to reach out to Columbia’s International Students and Scholars Office with any immigration or visa-related questions they have [].

We stand with and support SIPA’s international students, and look forward to welcoming you all in the Fall.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs

Read the full Office of University Life statement here.

An Important Update from Dean Merit E. Janow

Columbia SIPA Dean Merit E. Janow made this announcement on July 8, 2020:

Dear Members of the SIPA Community,

In his message yesterday to the Columbia community, President Bollinger provided a significant update on the University’s plans for the resumption of on-campus activities this fall. I encourage you to review it as it speaks not only to academic life but also important features of campus life going forward. I write today to reaffirm what we have previously shared with you about our plans for the fall, which have not changed, and to further clarify SIPA’s approach to the fall.

First, while the University has given schools the option to have a three-term academic year, SIPA will offer our full curriculum in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, allowing students to complete their coursework in the usual timeframe. As previously noted, there are no changes to SIPA’s fall academic calendar, which will begin on September 8th.  Spring semester, however, will start one week earlier than usual, on January 11th, and end on April 26th.  Commencement will take place that same week.  Once the University determines our designated date and time for commencement, we will share that information with you.

Second, as previously announced, all Fall 2020 courses will be offered online for the entire semester. In addition, a considerable number of these classes will be taught on campus. As I shared in my message to students on June 24th, if New York State and University public health policies allow, instructors will be able to teach from their regularly assigned SIPA classroom, and a limited number of students will be permitted to attend in person, subject to social distancing requirements. Faculty teaching in a classroom will simultaneously teach their online and on-campus students, utilizing newly installed audiovisual equipment.  University officials have informed us that in-person capacity will be 28 percent of the standard seating capacity and that work is underway to prepare classrooms to meet State and University public health guidelines.

On July 20 we will provide students via the SIPA Bulletin and Vergil a full list of Fall 2020 courses. To the extent possible by that date, we will identify which courses will be offered only online and which will be taught from a classroom (in addition to online).  If we know at that time that a course will be taught from a classroom, we will provide information about the expected in-person seating capacity. We will provide updates on July 27, August 3 and August 10 about the online/on-campus status of courses. We will provide full information no later than August 14 about which courses will be taught from a classroom and which will be online only. As stressed by President Bollinger, “every decision we make related to resuming in-person instruction and residential life will be contingent on New York State moving into Phase 4 of its reopening plan,” and any in-person instruction will depend on conditions on the ground in New York City.

Third, this week’s advance notice from the Department of Homeland Security of new regulations regarding online courses has doubtless raised many questions among SIPA’s international students.  I am in complete agreement with President Bollinger’s statement that these regulations are deeply misguided and “the destructive and indefensible purpose driving these policies” requires us to remain focused on the steps we can take to support our international students who are part of our Columbia family.  Although we are pressing for detailed guidance from University experts, it is our understanding that SIPA’s hybrid model (a mixture of online and in-person classes) will allow international students to enter the US on a student visa as long as they do not take an entirely online course load while in the US. In the meantime, students with any immigration or visa-related questions should consult the International Students and Scholars Office (here).

Fourth, we are working closely with faculty to redesign their fall courses for online instruction or a hybrid format. Among other adjustments, we are helping faculty make provisions for students who take courses from disparate time zones around the world. For example, nearly all class sessions will be recorded and made available to enrolled students via CourseWorks. SIPA-IT is also upgrading audio-visual capacity in all classrooms, in order to facilitate simultaneous teaching of online and in-person students.

Fifth, we will continue to offer the full range of student services to all SIPA students, whether in person or online. Further information about enhanced student support and services will be shared over the summer by the Office of Student Affairs, Office of Career Services, and other SIPA offices.

Sixth, from the onset of the pandemic, SIPA has taken steps to increase financial support for students. The School is providing the largest amount of financial aid in its history. In addition, we restructured our emergency fund this past spring to provide for students facing significant financial stress due to the COVID pandemic. We will continue that fund through the summer and into the fall. I also am pleased to announce that we are increasing resources available in the emergency fund for continuing students (modified guidelines and application process will be announced shortly).

Finally, President Bollinger’s message outlined the strict guidelines that will apply to all who live, work, study and teach at Columbia. Please review those carefully. As you will see, persons on campus must wear a face covering at all times, unless they are in a private room with the door closed. In addition, there are physical distancing, testing, symptom self-check, reduction in density, enhanced cleaning and other requirements.  More information about detailed public health protocols on campus can be found here.

The virus has had a profound effect on our community and the world. As we move forward, please know that we are deeply committed to supporting the needs of all of our students, faculty and staff. SIPA is the world’s most global school of international and public affairs, and we are proud of the remarkable students that join us from the United States and around the world. We are committed, as stressed by President Bollinger, in finding ways to enable the international students who are in the US to continue to complete their studies and those who are overseas to continue to engage with our faculty and students and be part of our vibrant virtual community.

We recognize many of you have more questions about the fall semester, and we will strive to answer them as soon as possible.  We are committed, no matter the uncertainty and disruption around us, to provide a safe learning environment consistent with our educational mission and to provide the rich array of intellectual experiences that are the defining features of the SIPA education.

The year ahead will be filled with complexity and interest: it will be a year that brings a US presidential election, important opportunities to consider economic, environmental, political, racial, social and other challenges facing the world and the United States. And despite the uncertainties and the precautions we all must undertake, we will have opportunities to study, teach, learn and engage with the world and each other. Our mission and our work have never been more important.

I look forward to our fall together.


Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs

Meet Francisco Martinez MIA ’20, Officer in the Chilean Navy

My name is Francisco Martinez, a Class of 2020 graduate of the Master of International Affairs (MIA) program with a International Security Policy (ISP) concentration and specializing in East Asia.

What did you do before attending SIPA?

I am an officer in the Chilean Navy. I was posted in the Naval Polytechnic Academy in Vina del Mar, Chile. My job there was to make sure the naval undergraduates succeed in their professional and technical careers. I was also sent as liaison to an Argentinian navy ship to patrol the Antarctic. Been in the Antarctic was an experience out of this world. Sealife, low temperatures, and Scientifics doing research showed how humankind could work under extreme conditions while also taking care of the environment. The mix of nationalities of all of us there in the Antarctic made me think that working in a multicultural environment is a challenge that I would love to take.

Why did you choose the ISP concentration and East Asia regional specialization?

I have been in the Navy for twenty years. During all those years, I was intrigued by Defense topics like Great Power competition and the different flashpoints around the world. Also, I like History, so I wanted to study how History has shaped security issues until today.

Before accepting the admission offer to join Columbia University, I thought about going to East Asia or Europe, perhaps to study. Still, then I realized that the U.S. had experienced professors in all security and regional studies, so I thought that I definitely wanted to join ISP here at SIPA.

About the specialization, I wasn’t sure about it. I changed halfway through my second year. I wanted to take more security courses, but the specialization requirement forced me to look for the one that contains more security studies, that’s why I chose East Asia. Before joining SIPA, I thought I knew about that part of the world. Still, after taking classes with professors Christensen, Scott, Hikotami, and Noerper, I realized that I had to be humble about my “knowledge.”

What are some of your most memorable SIPA experiences?

Definitely the D.C. Conference and the ISP Crisis simulation. In the former, I realized the importance that SIPA gives to the networking event. The most prominent place to shape policy is Washington D.C. I was amazed about the interaction between alumni and current SIPA students. I never thought about a networking event like that, but at the same time, it made complete sense to me. The ISP crisis simulation was a helpful way to prepare students to interact with each other in a crisis simulation environment. I took part in the organizing team, and it was interesting to see how some teams immersed themselves in their role and start acting like the countries they were representing. Even though we had a script about the simulation, the students’ ingenuity never stopped to amaze us during the event.

The next event that was memorable to me was the Staff ride to Gettysburg. Professor Stephen Biddle led the trip. He showed us the different perspectives from the soldiers on the ground that day, like how the trees affect the line of sight of cannons, or the effort required to prepare the scenario for battle with short notice. I realized that, as a Navy guy, my knowledge about inland operations was quite limited. I saw that in the field, the battle is much different than in the planning process. This may sound obvious to some of the readers, but for future leaders, it is crucial. You cannot successfully lead teams when you don’t know what the challenges they will face are. That was the main takeaway from my experience on that trip.

How did SIPA affect you?

SIPA change the way I saw the University. Before coming to SIPA, I was thinking about just to study, like sitting in a classroom and then going to the library. However, I was amazed at the opportunities for networking with different organizations or alumni. The other big part was the challenges, conferences, and simulations. On these occasions, students could participate as active members of teams and develop ideas or new policies to have a big impact on the challenge ahead.

The other aspect was that different perspectives shared in classes for the students. In some issues, I learned how the same problem could be seen from the different approaches. Accordingly, new policies could be implemented from those perspectives to be more effective at making the world a better place.

What did you do after SIPA?

I returned to the Navy. These are hard times, social unrest, and the Coronavirus pandemic made me think that, after all, that I learned at SIPA, I could apply the theory and be useful to Chile, contributing to make it a better place for everyone. During the last days of the Spring semester, I spent roughly one month at home, just finishing exams, while many people around the world were risking their lives to save their fellow citizens. It was then when I felt the need to act and do something. Now, after graduation from SIPA, I am doing something for my compatriots.

SIPA CERV – SIPA’s Newest Student Organization

This post is co-authored by Jacob Stern MPA ‘21 and Matthew Miller MPA ’21 (pictured on the far left, and third from the left respectively).

One rainy Thursday night this past fall, we were sitting at a local restaurant waiting for some other friends to arrive. While we were talking about what we wanted to get out of our SIPA experience, one theme that kept coming up was community engagement and public service. Disappointed and surprised to find there was not already a student organization dedicated to community engagement and public service, after an extended brainstorming session, we decided to start our own.

Thus, SIPA Community Engagement and Resource Volunteers (CERV) was born! We began working with the Office of Student Affairs and quickly grew our membership base to what it is today – over 60 members.

If community engagement and public service is something you are passionate about or if it is a topic that you are looking to learn more about, we encourage you to join us this fall. We have some great programming planned!

What is the goal of SIPA CERV?

SIPA CERV was founded on the principle of promoting a sustainable mutually beneficial relationship between the SIPA community and the Harlem/Morningside neighborhood. It is a neighborhood into which we are welcomed for two years, and we believe it is our responsibility to actively support informed and persistent involvement in public service. Columbia and Harlem have often had a difficult relationship and we strongly believe in promoting and fostering understanding and driving positive change in both communities through volunteerism and service.

How does SIPA CERV do this?

SIPA CERV works closely with the Harlem community, student body and the Office of Student Affairs to understand programming needs. On our daily walk from our homes in Harlem to the university, we were struck by the long lines at the neighborhood food bank and pro bono tax prep center. We quickly sensed an opportunity for SIPA students to get involved in and help the local community. SIPA CERV had found its first partner, Food Bank for NYC.

Last Semester’s Events: Partnership with the FoodBank for NYC

In Winter 2020, through our partnership with FoodBank for NYC, which has multiple locations within a few blocks of SIPA’s campus on 116th Street, we were able to offer the SIPA community multiple avenues to pursue service. We were active participants in both their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Community Kitchen programs, and found them immensely rewarding. Being able to help a local resident with their taxes and tell them they would be getting a $10,000 refund was precisely the type of collaboration between SIPA and the community that we had intended when we started CERV.

Despite the FoodBank suspending their programs in March due to COVID-19, CERV members volunteered in aggregate 145 hours and returned $161,000 in tax refunds to the local community this semester.  SIPA CERV members stepped up again in times of need and served over 500 meals at the Harlem Food Bank as local restaurants were closing due to COVID-19.  This feat could not have been accomplished without the dedicated SIPA CERV club members.

Why did you join SIPA CERV?

“I was struck by the visible wealth gap and disconnect between the shiny Columbia University buildings and the neighboring Harlem community, where poverty rates are higher than citywide rates. I also see public service as an integral part of a public policy education and SIPA CERV provided a unique opportunity to give back and help connect with the local community.”
Hon (Xing) Wong MPA Candidate ’21 | Energy and Environment Concentration:

“I joined SIPA CERV as a way to both engage with, and contribute to, the local community that has welcomed me as a resident during my time at SIPA. I know how fortunate I am to be able to attend such a top university as Columbia, and I am also acutely aware that there is a lot of need in our community and that so many of our neighbors have not had the same opportunities in life that I have. Joining SIPA CERV provided a really practical way for me to help the community. It’s quite a simple thing for me to take a few hours out of my day to serve meals at the FoodBank, and it’s so rewarding to see how much that can benefit people who might otherwise go hungry. We are taught at SIPA to be leaders in public policy and volunteering through SIPA CERV is a key part of building that foundation.”
Rachel Adeney MPA Candidate ’21 | International Finance and Economic Policy

What’s Next for SIPA CERV?

Next semester, we will continue to partner with the FoodBank for NYC while exploring new ways to engage with the community. Additionally, we see an opportunity for SIPA to be a leader among peer institutions in community engagement, an area that has taken on an enhanced, yet overdue relevance and importance in light of recent events. Our long-term vision is to integrate diverse forms of community engagement into the SIPA curriculum.

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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