Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, July 12

Make sure international students can stay at UW

Wisconsin can’t afford to lose thousands of foreign students from its campuses, especially those attending UW-Madison.

International students pay steep tuition, which helps hold down the cost of college for Wisconsin residents. Many foreign students also stay here after graduation, filling high-demand jobs in science, technology, engineering and math. Some even start successful companies that employ hundreds of people.

For example, UW-Madison graduates from India, China and elsewhere founded Imbed Biosciences, TomoTherapy, TrafficCast, Symphony Corp. and other high-tech businesses in the Madison area.

Wisconsin’s congressional delegation must unify against any attempt by the Trump administration to needlessly force international students to leave Wisconsin if universities here can’t offer in-person classes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Federal guidance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency suggests foreign students will have to attend at least one class in person to maintain their legal status here. Given how serious the health risk to students, professors and others on campus could be in the coming months if COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the Trump administration shouldn’t be pressuring American universities to offer in-person classes if school administrators don’t think they can do so safely. The Trump administration’s threat to deport international students is reckless and irresponsible, and will hurt our economy.

Hopefully, all University of Wisconsin System campuses will be able to offer in-person classes this fall. UW System’s goal is to give students the option of learning in classrooms or online. And on Thursday, interim UW System President Tommy Thompson said he’s confident the System’s 8,800 international students will get to stay. Even if an entire campus offers online courses only, Thompson said, other campuses in the System will still offer in-person options, which should satisfy federal requirements.

We hope he’s right.

Thompson last week responsibly called for mandatory face masks inside all campus buildings to help keep the virus at bay. The UW Board of Regents wisely and unanimously endorsed face masks Thursday. Dane County also is requiring its residents to cover their faces when inside public spaces and businesses.

That should help keep our economy — and schools — open.

But so much is still unknown about the potentially deadly disease that federal officials shouldn’t be boxing in universities with strict government mandates.

UW-Madison alone has close to 6,000 international students. That’s a lot of potential business leaders and innovators who might be forced to leave if the Trump administration follows through with its narrow-minded policies.

Wisconsin is hardly alone. Nationally, more than 1 million foreign students are enrolled in colleges across the United States.

Congress must ensure our campuses can keep and nurture that talent — not toss contributors out because the president wants to look tough on immigration during a difficult election. UW-Madison must be flexible, too.

The goal should be healthy students seeking innovation on state campuses — the best and brightest young people from across Wisconsin and from around the globe.


The Journal Times of Racine, July 12

Both sides need to keep the Postal Service going

Just before they left on their two-week recess, House Democrats passed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure spending bill that likely won’t win congressional approval.

But a key part of the Moving Forward Act should certainly gain favor in some form from legislators on both sides of the aisle.

That part — amounting to $25 billion — would go to the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service to modernize postal infrastructure and operations. It earmarks $6 billion for new delivery vehicle fleet that would be at least 75% “electric or zero emission vehicles.”

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the funding would help the Postal Service meet its mission ’rain, shine, night, day, COVID or not.”

“The Postal Service is doing it in 35-year-old delivery vehicles,” he said. “They’re decrepit and incredibly expensive to maintain. This would help them buy a new fleet and help them get through this crisis.”

The Postal Service has needed help for years, and without long-term reform it predicts it could run out of money before the end of 2021.

It deserves a boost from Congress as decisions are made for further coronavirus stimulus.

It may be easy for some to dismiss the Postal Service needs, thinking that mail is in the past in this age of online banking and texts and email for fast communication. But many Americans continue to rely on the mail as they send personal checks for services and cards and notes to loved ones. This is no time to shortchange that.

Republicans and Democrats are going to have to find common ground here.

It didn’t happen in the first stimulus bill, as the Trump administration vetoed $13 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service in April.

At the time the president said he would not approve government help for the Postal Service until it raised its prices.

“The post office, if they raised the price of a package by approximately four times, it would be a whole new ballgame,” the president said back then. “But they don’t want to raise it because they don’t want to insult Amazon, and they don’t want to insult other companies, perhaps, that they like.

“The post office should raise the price of the packages to the companies. Not to the people, to the companies. If they did that, it would be a whole different story.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin agreed with Trump, adding that there will be certain criteria for a postal reform program as part of a loan agreement.

Postal reform certainly must be part of any new funding, but there should be no delay. The need is real and now.

A “Save the USPS” rally in Philadelphia late last month attracted about three dozen U.S. Postal workers and supporters, calling on Congress to provide funding in the next stimulus bill.

“Look at the people that are out here today, it should be a lot more. Everyone depends on the Postal Service, we depend on the Postal Service,” said Nancy Rolling, American Postal Workers Union vice president.

Yes, many Americans still do depend on the service. It’s time for both sides in Washington to deliver.


Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, July 8

Cover your face to keep the economy open

The coronavirus pandemic is heading in a dangerous direction.

Cases are up in Wisconsin and across most of the nation, as young people — many without symptoms — spread and contract the potentially deadly disease in greater numbers. The risk of transmission is highest indoors, where the virus can float longer in stagnant air.

That’s why Dane County is justified in mandating face coverings indoors starting Monday, unless you are in your home or outside. Dane County just confirmed its highest week of infections, averaging 111 per day, with more than 2,500 verified cases overall.

Thankfully, local hospitals are still operating well below capacity, with fewer people dying. But other states with surges in cases, such as Texas, haven’t been so lucky.

We don’t agree with everything in Dane County’s order. Its demand that masks be worn by visitors inside private homes seems needlessly intrusive. Leave personal decisions about private living spaces up to individuals.

The county’s prohibition on drinking inside bars seems heavy-handed, too, though outside patios can remain open. Allowing 25% capacity, similar to restaurants, would have been more reasonable.

Mostly, though, the order makes sense for two very big reasons: It will slow the accelerating spread of a terrible disease, and it will help keep our economy open.

Many businesses have been welcoming employees back to offices following months of working remotely or not at all. To stay open, those businesses need COVID-19 contained. And facial coverings are one of the best ways to limit the virus’s spread indoors.

Masks shouldn’t be political. While Dane County is liberal and tends to favor more government regulation, it is hardly the only place requiring facial coverings in risky settings.

Greg Abbott, the conservative governor of Texas, just instituted a similar requirement for most of his state. And even Republican President Donald Trump, who has pooh-poohed masks in the past, told Fox Business last week he’s “all for masks. I think masks are good.” ...

So put on a mask when you enter a building that isn’t your home, or when you can’t stay 6 feet apart from others outside (assuming you don’t live with them). Covering your face will help slow COVID-19. It will help keep our hospitals stable. It will allow local businesses, many of which are struggling, to stay open.

The county’s mask mandate still lets most people do what they want. You can shop, eat, exercise and go where you please — mostly without a mask. But inside, where public health experts tell us the virus is most transmittable, please cover your face.