As a full-time international student at the University of Toronto Mississauga, I am formally writing to oppose the winter housing extension fees in the amount of $400 that students who require housing during this period (December 21 to January 6) are forced to pay.
Since moving to Canada, I have been tossed around from place to place in the process of moving in an and out of residence. The residence policies that guide the housing process are less than favourable to the UTM student body on residence as a whole and even more unfavourable to international students.
UTM students who live on campus are required to vacate their units by December 21 at the latest. This would not be much of a problem if, like local students, I had family here. I cannot help but feel that the majority of students paying this $400 fee are international students who have nowhere else to go. The other group consists of students who live in far-off places like Vancouver. Why is there an invoice for “Residence fees” at the beginning of the year if I am required to pay an extra amount? As an international student, I pay on average at least $30,000 a year, which includes tuition and housing. That is enough for UTM to have me here for less—which was the case two years ago when we were charged only $250—or even nothing at all during those two weeks.
Seeking alternative housing prior to this interim period in order to avoid the fee is a catalyst for stress-related diseases that are counterproductive to achieving academic goals. As an alternative, I don’t see how searching for housing when students like myself should be focussing on exams helps. This task obstructs the proper mental, physical, and emotional environment that is appropriate for study. This is the reason we have all left our countries to come to Canada: to study. Another important point is that the cafeteria is closed during this extension period.
Aggravated by the issue, I resorted to my Twitter page, where my rants attracted some attention. I was invited to discuss the winter housing process with Emma Beamson, communications coordinator, and Dale Mullings, director of residence and student life. The meeting was open to any other students with similar concerns and provided an opportunity for the residence staff to provide justification for the fee increase as well its existence at all.
After this meeting, I was dissatisfied with their responses and believe that whether or not UTM Residence Life is an ancillary organization, it is still a part of the university and should function in a way that puts its students first.
Just three weeks ago, about 80 international students from UTM met with Mayor McCallion at the Mississauga Civic Centre. Her keynote gave me reassurance as she addressed the students. “We welcome people from all over the world in our city and university,” she declared on behalf of the City of Mississauga. “You’re very special, and we want to do anything we can to make you feel at home.”
Frankly speaking, being homeless for two weeks does not make me feel welcome in this university, much less in this city. Something needs to be done about this. If profit is the primary reason for the existence of UTM or any other educational institution, like a potential buyer in a Ferrari store, it will do them good to hold our hands while we pay $30,000+ in tuition and housing. Some of our parents work extremely hard to keep us overseas, and that does not in any way mean that we have the extra $400 to spare.
If there is some counterargument regarding the current operation of UTM, perhaps one championing hospitality and goodwill, now is the time for this school to prove it.