The following email went out to petition signatories on March 17, 2017:

In response to pressure from the Harvard community, the university has taken some encouraging steps toward supporting international scholars. The Gazette article on March 15, 2017, describes a couple accommodations requested in our petition, though it is unclear whether they apply to all doctoral students or only those in GSAS programs. We want to thank all the signatories to our petition for helping secure these important changes.

Timed with the publication of this Gazette article, we received a direct response to our petition from Harvard’s administration, nearly a month after delivering the petition to President Drew Faust’s office:

I am replying to your message to various members of Harvard’s academic leadership.  Putting to one side whether the issues you have raised fall within the purview of a labor organization, I wanted to direct your attention to both President Faust’s January 29, 2017 letter to the Harvard community and to a recent article in the Harvard Gazette outlining the University’s steps to support its international students, faculty, and staff.  The University will continue to monitor developments in this space and will adapt as circumstances may evolve.
~Paul Curran, Director of Labor and
Employee Relations, Harvard

Please note that (1) this response does not fully address concerns raised in the petition, (2) it references President Faust’s public statement about diversity and inclusion that is already acknowledged in the petition, and (3) by suggesting that the rights of international students are not a labor issue, the response ignores the critical role unions have had in fighting for civil rights, including obtaining protections for international and immigrant workers.

As a result of the publicity of our campaign and those of other organizations, the university has agreed to make some improvements. While the improvements made thus far are welcome, they are not enough, with eight of our ten petition demands still unaddressed: our scholars still require guarantees of full financial, logistical, legal, and mental health support. Even though the second Muslim Ban has been temporarily suspended by federal judges, the immigration policies of the Trump administration continue to wreak havoc on the ability of our international scholars to continue their careers, whether due to bureaucratic changes to H1-B visa issuance or due to the expanded discretionary powers of immigration enforcement agents.

Let’s keep up the pressure. Our delivery of the HGSU-UAW petition, with close to 600 signatures, has pushed them to do more. Our 750+ signatories now include over 70 faculty members, and we aim to reach 1,200 signatories by Monday. Harvard’s administration needs to take a stronger stand for its scholars, both in rhetoric and guaranteed institutional support. Please circulate the petition and get signatures from at least 5 additional Harvard affiliates to support our efforts in advocating for our international scholars.