We’re already ahead of the travel ban: STU

St. Thomas University has no special plans to expand its existing resources for international students to accommodate those in the United States affected by the Trump administration’s travel ban.

Associate vice-president communications Jeffrey Carleton said STU had discussions with other universities and the New Brunswick Student Alliance about what they could possibly do regarding the issue. Ultimately, it was decided the current resources were sufficient.

“We didn’t want to appear to be opportunistic, to try and attract students because of the travel ban,” Carleton said.

The University of New Brunswick announced on March 2 it will seek to provide assistance to students affected by the travel ban.

The university said it plans to treat applicants as refugees, allowing greater flexibility in the treatment of documents and requirements. It will also waive application fees, assist transfers from other institutions and reduce or waive both the undergraduate tuition deposit and residence application fee. Residence space will be guaranteed for these students and the university will provide additional orientation and programming advice, immigration advice, as well as continued support from student services.

UNB’s vice-president academic George MacLean said in a news release UNB is committed to diversity, inclusion and equity.

“We played an integral part in welcoming refugees to New Brunswick last year, and UNB’s campuses are recognized by our staff, students and communities as caring and friendly environments.”

Carleton said STU’s administration decided it wanted to continue on the path the university has already laid out for international students.

“We thought, ‘Well, we want to treat all international students with those kind of attributes we have now, and we want to personalize the personal intention, the assistance of financial support we already have,’” he said.

“So, we felt if we just continue on and offer those services to international students … that would speak to any anxiety that any potential student would have.”

STU offers all international students guaranteed rooms in residence and has two international recruiters, as well as an international student advisor on staff. Carleton said the university offers generous scholarship and bursary supports and tuition that is among the lowest in the region for international students. The application fee is $45 and he said the turnaround period for international applications is about 48 hours.

“So, we did look at it four or five weeks ago when it came out, and we felt that the other things that other universities were stepping forward to do … we do all those things on a day-to-day basis,” Carleton said.

“We already have that kind of community, so we don’t want to be in any position where we’re taking advantage of this kind of circumstance.”

Professor Aamir Jamal has taught social policy and international development at STU for five years. His current research focuses on Canadian-Muslim youth and identity crises amidst global conflict.

Jamal said he appreciates what UNB is doing for the affected students currently studying and planning to study in the U.S.

“It has a devastating impact on those very precious treasures of society, the most innocent and devastated community of their society who have nothing to do with these wars and conflicts,” he said.

“And so when they come here they are the most important and more precious treasures of the community here and their intellectual contribution, their economical contribution, will have long-lasting impacts on the academia and the university at large.”

A recent poll indicated 68 per cent of Atlantic Canadians surveyed support screening potential immigrants for Canadian values. Despite this, Jamal said he thinks coming forward for these students is an important step.

“It is a true representation of being Canadian, it is a true representation of what Prime Minister Trudeau is talking about, that diversity is our strength, and we always open our heart and our palms to the communities who are impacted by wars who are going through hardship and violence and who are fleeing from hardship and violence and communities to this part of the world.”

When Jamal was a student himself, he came from Pakistan to New York. He said it was his dream to get his masters degree from a U.S. institution, and he remembers it being a long road to get there.

He said he hopes STU’s administration will open its doors in a similar way UNB plans to.

“We believe that St. Thomas is an open, diverse and inclusive community. We respect and we appreciate diversity, we would like to engage students with different religious, ethnic, cultural backgrounds, so we are a perfect spot for those students in that sense,” Jamal said.

“We believe in human rights … so these are all of our venues, and we respect, appreciate, and celebrate those values. So this is the right now, we should be moving forward for that and opening our hearts, our arms, welcome and facilitate them to come here and make something a little more than UNB did, I would say.”

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