Dear Minister Metlege Diab,
Formed after the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Students, Staff and Faculty Alliance (SSFA) represents 20 unions or associations with over 20,000 college and university employees and students across the province, all of whom are essential to the work of higher education in the province. I write to you as president of the SSFA to address our concern with your recent decision to require universities to have “oversight responsibility for international students during their quarantine, whether on or off-campus”.
It is our understanding that many Nova Scotian universities are passing this cost on to the international students, requiring them to absorb fees upwards of $1500 for room and board at designated hotels, in addition to the extremely high tuition fees that they already pay. This seems unnecessarily punitive for students who contribute academically, culturally, and economically to our communities. While we understand the need for self-isolation, it seems unfair, and frankly, biased, to require this degree of supervision, while their Canadian counterparts are permitted to isolate in their own residences. We call on your department to request that universities find equally safe but less expensive ways for international students to quarantine, or provide funding for those students who must isolate in this manner. To date there has been no financial help during the pandemic for post-secondary education from either the federal or provincial governments. We urge you to reach out to the Dept. of Immigration and Citizenship to provide funding for this initiative.
Further, it appears that while the majority of university courses are available online, enabling some students to remain in their home countries for now, doing so may put students at risk of violating the rules around their work permits/visas and may affect their immigration status at no fault of their own. This would seem counterintuitive to the Nova Scotia government’s policy of championing Nova Scotia “as a leader in international student experience while advancing social and economic growth in our province”.
In closing, we call on you, Minister Metlege Diab, to meet again with universities to rectify this unjust isolation requirement and its punitive cost to our international students.
Dr. Robert Scott Stewart, PhD
President, Students, Staff and Faculty Alliance