Jessica Rogers initiated the Fairness for International Students campaign last year during her term as the International Students Commissioner.
The campaign was meant to raise awareness on the disparities on tuition fees, immigration policies and health insurance between international students and domestic students.
This week, the current International Students Commissioner, Boykin Smith, in collaboration with a task force of engaged students, the Trent International Students’ Association (TISA) and regional groups, continued the Fairness for International Students campaign through a series of events designed to shed light on international student issues at Trent.
One of the principal components of the campaign was a petition drafted by the TCSA, TISA and regional groups that called for regulated international students’ tuition fee increases.
Currently, international student tuition fees can be increased by any percentage at any given time. The petition seeks to regulate the percentage increase to match that of domestic students for the next four years. In other words, if domestic tuition fees increase by three per cent, international tuition fees can increase by a maximum of three per cent accordingly.
Unregulated tuition fees place international students in a precarious condition due the ability of international students to cover the costs of unpredictable tuition fees.
The Fairness for International Students campaign hosted an event every day of the week to raise awareness. On Monday and Tuesday, campaign organizers tabled at Wenjack and in the Bata Library foyer with free candy and baked treats.
The tables featured signs that read ‘Tuition,’ ‘Immigration’ and ‘Health Insurance,’ and behind each sign goodies were segregated between international and domestic. Domestic students were only allowed to take goodies under the ‘Domestic’ label while international students were only allowed to take goodies from the ‘International’ label.
The purpose of this was to initiate a conversation on fairness of policies in regard to international students in these three areas and to educate both international and domestic students on the disparities created by such policies.
On Wednesday, in light of the Internationalization Review launched by Trent University that included few student voices, the Fairness for International Students campaign hosted its own Internationalization Review that welcomed all students.
Members from TISA, TACSU, HOLA and TSEAO attended the session; as did the incoming International Students Commissioner, exchange students and domestic students alike. The director of Trent International Program (TIP), Dr. Mike Alcott, was also in attendance.
The review began by a statement of the definition of “internationalization” as given from Trent’s administrative body.
This definition included increasing the number of international students on campus and international student enrolment, increasing study abroad programs in a push to create global citizens, including international student perspectives and learning objectives across course curriculums, increasing learning opportunities between people of different countries and increasing opportunities for engagement in international businesses.
Students noted that this definition of internationalization was too narrow and needed to be expanded to include increasing diversity, since increasing the number of international students alone does not necessarily result in a multicultural environment if recruitment efforts focus on specific regions.
Additionally, students pointed out that it was important to include inclusivity and integration of international students at all levels of the university.
The review was guided by a series of questions on how Trent was accomplishing internationalization and how its efforts could be improved. Students mentioned that Trent was contributing to internationalization through strong student-led initiatives such as the World University Services Canada and the regional groups, by the amount of personalized support that TIP provides to incoming students and by offering specialized programs that contribute to the uniqueness of a Trent degree and that may not be offered in other universities abroad.
Students noted many areas in which Trent could improve its internationalization initiatives.
In the area of tuition fees, students echoed the petition by vocalizing the need for regulated fees. In addition, they noted that although Trent University ranks as the #1 school in offering scholarships to international students, this does not mean that there is no room for improvement in this area.
They suggested a budgetary review across the university, as the university has allocated so much of its budget to non-priority areas like the television screens that have been placed across campus, renovations to Bata Library and excessive administrative costs.
Students recognized the university-wide budget cuts, but noted that the burden of these cuts should not be placed on internationals students. As a university that is marketed as a place where ‘the world learns together,’ it should allocate its funds to create more opportunities for international students.
Additionally, students noted that Trent should diversify its recruitment efforts, as the number of students from low- and middle-income countries in areas from Latin America and the Caribbean has been steadily declining, while student numbers from Asian countries have steadily increased.
They proposed using student ambassadors to promote Trent University when they travelled back home in order to ensure the diversity of incoming students.
Students also pointed out prerequisites and the recognition of transfer credits as a significant barrier to exchange students and students who completed advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs.
They argued that course content could – and should – be diversified and take into account the presence of international students. A number of professors assume prior knowledge of the Canadian context that international students lack.
Additionally, students also noted that international faculty and faculty of color can speak to diverse issues and were essential in creating an environment that welcomed multiple perspectives.
On Thursday, the campaign featured a Lip Sync Battle at the Ceilie with international tunes and an opportunity for domestic and international students alike to come together over music. On the last day of the campaign, students were welcome to make buttons at the Bata Library foyer and to later join into the colorful Holi Spring Festival celebration.
The Fairness for International Students campaign is essential to raise awareness, have open spaces for discussion and educate domestic and international students on the barriers that international students face at Trent University.