International community responds to Internationalization Review

Trent University recently underwent an ‘Internationalization’ review, one conducted by an external reviewer, had limited student input, was poorly publicized and occurred over the span of less than one week.

Arthur reached out to student leaders in the international student community, this is what they had to say:

“I was not impressed by the process by which the internationalization review was conducted. I believe it was very rushed, secretive and exclusive, as many international students were not made aware of it.

Furthermore, ‘internationalization’ is not the best word to use to describe a review of TIP, it is very confusing and misleading. This is why the TCSA has decided to conduct a student-led ‘internationalization’ review of our own.

One that is more inclusive and transparent to the entire student body. This is what internationalization should look like. It should be inclusive, dynamic and reflective of the entire student body: domestic and international.

More importantly, it should be open to acknowledging and addressing the hard-hitting challenges that international students face such as discrimination, financial barriers to education, unemployment, mental and physical health and immigration.

Given the current capacity of the TIP, I believe that short-term improvements can be made in all these areas. The student-led review will be a part of our Fairness for International Students Week between March 28 to April 2.”

-Boykin Smith, International Students Commissioner

“What needs to be questioned is not the review itself, as policy for international students can always be changed for the better, but how the process took place. In this sense, there was very little involvement from international students in representing the concerns of the international community.

It is the students who can express and convey the issues that truly need to be assessed regarding international policy; and it is they who can truly express what the Trent University experience, as an international student, really is all about.

In fact, very few international students knew that this review was taking place, and the information given to those who inquired about this whole ‘internationalization’ [review] was relatively ambiguous.

In my opinion, a well-performed ‘internationalization’ review would consist of more direct involvement with international students and organizations that would allow for a more diverse range of opinions, concerning the major challenges international students face, to be heard. I am hoping that inadequate policy formulation does not result from this review.”

– Ana Paulina Leal, Vice-President of the Trent International Students’ Association (TISA)

“This review was only brought to my attention at an alumni council meeting in January and also by word of mouth from students.  I was informed that more information would soon be available about the approach and purpose of the review; however, that seems to have been lost somewhere on its concourse to the Trent Society.

I know that the university was conducting a review of Traill College at the same time and I gladly took part in discussions with the reviewer when the invitation was extended to alumni. However, it is quite disappointing to have learned that alumni, who are still visiting Peterborough, and [even those] living here, weren’t offered the similar opportunity.

Such a review should have been given the same amount of attention as Trail College, as the international community makes up one third of the Trent community and we definitely contribute to the well being of the community and society at large.

I am quite disappointed on the approach that was taken from the university and the TIP office for this review. The short span of time [and] the level of inclusivity does not represent the larger picture of what a review actually is, especially since it wasn’t an internal review.”

– Jessica Rogers, Alumni, former TISA President, former International Students Commissioner, David Morrison Award recipient

“Originally from Uruguay, Trent provided me with a scholarship opportunity that enabled me to attend the university and to call Trent one of my homes. I remember writing for Arthur newspaper many times about the danger of considering international students as cash cows and about the dangers of reducing the scholarship program, both on a moral and on a practical level.

On a moral level, when Jack Matthews founded TIP, he and the university recognized that it was morally imperative to provide international students with scholarships. On a practical level, scholarship reductions would mean less diversity of international students.

This year’s international review was officially described as a comprehensive review, although only a few very select students were consulted and the process seemed to be extremely short.

It could also be said that what ‘internationalization’ means could also be a determining factor in the review, which was never clearly stated or defined by the president, nor by the administrative person in charge. A review is usually undertaken for certain reasons and with certain objectives in mind. These should be transparent and clear to all members of the community.

Trent has been regarded in the past as an excellent university for having a vibrant student community that fostered inclusion, respect of diversity and the values of global citizenship predicated by Jack Matthews.

Internationalization has been at the core of Trent identity. I hope that the review and future efforts respect these values.”

– Renzo Costa, Alumni, former TISA President, Jack Matthews Award recipient

“The internationalization review is something I never heard of or perceived in any way.

If the review was, in fact, intended to reflect the experience of all of the international students, I don’t think it will provide very accurate results since, clearly, there were many of us who were not included.

For me, internationalization shouldn´t be seen as how many international students we can fit in the university, but instead, as how well are the needs of international students been recognized. I think internationalization eventually leads to multiculturalism.

The way I understand this concept is as a constant, substantial, educated and inclusive dialogue between cultures that makes us grow as a community.

Since we all come from different countries and backgrounds our challenges can vary significantly. But if I were to choose one in particular that I think is common to most of the international students, it would be the need for financial assistance.

An internationalization review that doesn’t target a point like this is disregarding a key aspect of our academic life as internationals, and that many of us have struggled with at certain point.”

– Juan Pablo Urza Perez, First Year Representative, Organization for Latin Awareness (HOLA)

“[What] I feel strongly about is the fact that students were not asked about their perspective on the internationalization process. I think asking the wider student population can give us quality insights.

Internationalization is a widely discussed topic in universities and colleges around the world today. Anyone walking around our beautiful campus can see that [a lot of] the student population is indeed international.

I think Trent University has done a great job in advancing the idea of global citizenship through programs and fellowships such as the TIP camp and the Jack Matthews Fellowship amongst many others.

Although, that being said, there are always things that could be worked on but I am confident that Trent will come out with flying colours as a result of the review process.”

– Aaditya Thakar, President of the South Asian Association at Trent (SAAT)