Chinese Foreign Students at Rice Become Activists Supporting OPT

Interesting piece in the student newspaper at Rice University, regarding an organized effort by Chinese international students there in support of the OPT extension.

Rice is one of my favorites. It’s got a beautiful campus, and has first-rate departments in my two fields, Computer Science and Statistics. It also is one of the more selective schools at the undergraduate level in the U.S.; most immigrant Tiger Moms probably haven’t heard of it, but it offers outstanding educational opportunities.

One analyst who has been following the OPT case closely told me on November 12 that “Suddenly today, about 8000 comments showed up on the OPT rule [signature Web page]. Nearly all I have scanned support it and nearly all have Chinese names.” This jibes with the Rice newspaper article, though of course it’s no surprise. It does again raise the question of how much weight, if any, DHS and the judge in the case should give signatures of noncitizens.

Ron Hira and others have pointed out that the OPT extension’s ostensible rationale to give foreign students practical training to complement their formal studies makes no sense. These students typically have graduate degrees of a professional nature such as CS, so their studies are already practice-oriented, and in any case THREE YEARS of internship is just plain silly.

Thus it is to the credit of Baker, the Office of International Students and Scholars Executive Director quoted in the article, that she makes no pretense that these students need more training. She states the real reason, which is that the students use OPT as an end-run around the H-1B cap. (Even DHS has admitted this is the real reason for the proposed extension.)

But Baker also claims something more (here and below, bold emphasis added):

“From the student perspective, it would be terrible because there would be so many students who are assuming they can stay longer, and they can’t,” Baker said. “And it’s horrible for the companies because the companies are depending on these students. They hire them because they are the best people for that field.

Well, actually often they hire them for a very different reason — to obtain immobile workers. This is viewed by employers as a huge benefit, and is pitched as such by immigration lawyers. Ms. Baker should go to the Web page of David Swaim, who designed Texas Instruments’ immigration policy, and now runs his own shop. His flashy slide show explains to those employers who don’t already know the secret about the foreign students (who hold F-1 visas):

Most [American] college graduates leave in less than two years. F-1 students who want permanent residence must stay seven to twelve years…In most cases the employee is required to wait under an extensive quota system which can be anywhere from five to ten years, depending on the position and the employee’s place of birth. It is this step in the process which allows the employer to maximize the retention advantages of hiring international students…[Concerning the cost of green card sponsorship:] Since the legal system requires the international employee to keep the same employment for seven to twelve years, the ‘cost’ [the lawyer says $8,000] of that employee should be viewed in the greater context of the value that employee brings to the company…minor compared to the overall compensation.

But doesn’t Rice’s selectivity at the undergraduate level imply the same for graduate programs? Unfortunately not. It has become common for universities to offer special Master’s degrees, as revenue generators (no financial support is offered). Needless to say, universities are not going to be too picky in their admissions standards for such programs. I see that Rice has a CS program that appears to be in this category, and one for Statistics.

Rice is definitely a nice place for Chinese foreign students. The first time I went there (2012), I noticed that the Chinese food place in the student union listed its daily specials on a blackboard in Chinese — but not in English. A sure sign the food would be good, which it was.

The article quotes one of the Chinese students who organized the drive to sign the OPT comments page:

Computer science master’s student and recent alumni Maggie Tang (Lovett ’15) approached RCSSA early November in hopes that the organization, as a unified body, could call Chinese students to action. One of the main proponents of the campaign, Tang said the email was a response to a flood of negative, extremist and sometimes uninformed comments [by Americans]

I’m sure Tang means well, but I’d say she’s the one who is uninformed.

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8 thoughts on “Chinese Foreign Students at Rice Become Activists Supporting OPT

  1. If Ms. Tang’s quote about Americans being “negative, extremist, and sometimes uninformed” is accurate, I am surprised that she would want to remain in the US and have to deal with such despicable people who have the right to be here by virtue of their citizenship.

    She is a GUEST and needs to have better manners and be respectful towards the people who have made the US to be a place where she wants to remain.

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  2. One of the provisions of the proposal that is not often mentioned is that a company is required to provide services to students on OPT that they are not required and would not normally provide to other new employees. This disparate treatment of individuals with different legal statuses (visa holder verse US citizen or permanent resident) is discriminatory.

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  3. “I’m sure Tang means well, but I’d say she’s the one who is uninformed.”

    If you do read Tang’s comments, I doubt you will say Tang is uninformed. The only uninformed ones are those who shout negative emotions without meaningful suggestion about how to improve this program

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