The US Department of Homeland Security recently announced the formation of a new council to advise Secretary Janet Napolitano on student visa issues and other security-related topics that affect academe.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the high-level commission, comprising 19 university presidents and academic leaders, is one of the most prominent signs of greater responsiveness to higher education concerns by the department since it came in for criticism for regulatory loopholes and enforcement lapses that allowed little-known and unaccredited institutions to enrol thousands of international students in questionable degree programmes.
In addition, Ms. Napolitano has created an Office of Academic Engagement to coordinate department-wide efforts on issues related to higher education, including student and recent graduate recruitment; international students; academic research; campus and community resiliency, security and preparedness; and faculty exchanges.
The new office and the new Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC) are among the department’s priorities under Ms. Napolitano, said Lauren Kielsmeier, the office’s executive director. We wanted to better “connect the dots across the department in all the ways in which we have a nexus to academe.”
The new commission, which will hold its first public meeting tomorrow on 20 March, is charged with providing advice and recommendations to the secretary and to senior department officials. A list of panel members can be found here.
“I think the commission is valuable for higher education and for the department to hear our concerns,” said Wallace D. Loh, president of the University of Maryland at College Park, who will be chairman of the group. He said he hoped the commission could make recommendations to Homeland Security to help it “get that right balance” between welcoming foreign students and scholars and protecting national security.