As lawmakers debate proposals to limit student visas and accelerate the creation of a national database to track international students, GESO condemned such proposals and called on University officials to take an active role in defending the rights of international students.

In a statement released today, the Graduate Employees and Students Organization applauded the efforts of Yale thus far even as they urged the University to help lead opposition to restrictions on international students.

Yale President Richard Levin has said that the University opposes restrictions on student visas and that Yale representatives are working to ensure that no cuts in visas are made.

The GESO statement asked administrators to “notify the Yale community if and when the administration is asked to share information or records with federal agencies.”

GESO also expressed concern about potential restrictions of research for international students, including research involving biological or chemical materials.

GESO’s push for greater University involvement comes as President George W. Bush and members of Congress consider restrictions on student visas as measures to increase national security in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

“We are totally opposed to cutting down the number of student visas,” Levin said. “We believe that more international exposure at the level of higher education is the right response to the recent events — not less exposure.”

Two weeks ago, Bush called on Secretary of State Colin Powell, Attorney General John Ashcroft and cabinet members to review student visa policies in order to increase security.

If approved, many of the restrictions could affect the 600,000 students who receive student visas every year.

One proposal includes accelerating the development of a database of information on international students and charging students a $95 fee to support it. A 1996 bill mandated such a database be created by 2003, but lawmakers have asked for emergency funding to put it in place sooner. The information from the database would then be matched with passenger lists of airplanes, cruise ships and buses leaving the country.

Under certain proposals, universities would be required to notify authorities if international students stopped attending classes.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., have proposed temporary bans on visas for students from seven countries that the State Department has identified as sponsors of terrorism. These countries are Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

While careful to say that they support the University’s efforts so far, GESO members said they want officials to take a more active role.

“They’ve been quite good so far,” J.T. Way GRD ’05, chairman of GESO, said. “We’re not criticizing what has been done, but we want the University to do more.”