UTSU is calling on U of T and the Ontario government to pay greater attention to international student issues including representation on Governing Council, among other demands.
The union is working with the Association of Part-time University Students and the Canadian Federation of Students to address what it calls the “exploitation” of international students.
The campaign is calling for OHIP access for international students, a change to the University of Toronto Act so that international students can run for Governing Council, and for international student tuition fees to be regulated.
UTSU VP internal and services Cameron Wathey called the current eligibility requirements for seats on Governing Council “discriminatory”, noting that three students were declared ineligible to run for Governing Council earlier this month because they did not meet the citizenship requirements.
The University of Toronto Act stipulates, “All members of the Governing Council must be Canadian citizens.”
Individuals seeking nomination to the council are required to present proof of citizenship when submitting the nomination form.
At the UTM Town Hall last semester, Wathey raised his concerns about international student representation on the council to UTM principal Deep Saini, who responded that the issue was “under study”.
Since then, Wathey said he has met with the current chair of Governing Council, Judy Goldring, who Wathey says is looking into changing the U of T Act so that international students will be eligible to run.
The provincial government ultimately has the power to make the changes.
“I have also had several discussions with members of Governing Council and the administration, who have indicated that we have made good arguments and this is something to address,” Wathey said. “It’s clear that international students are fed up with the discrimination and want to address the situation directly.”
Wathey added that other postsecondary schools have similar “discriminatory policies” and said that the issue could be addressed jointly with the other schools.
The groups also raised their concerns at a meeting hosted by the CFS with the minister of training, colleges, and universities Reza Moridi along with other government representatives.
According to the CFS in an online fact sheet, international students are an “easy target” for high tuition fees because they have little political influence in Canada.
The fact sheet also shows that U of T charged the highest international tuition fees in Canada for the 2011/12 year.
“At the rate at which the population of international students is growing at the university and the way the province and university are recruiting more international students in the upcoming years, we deserve the right to be able to address our concerns to the Governing Council as a student representative,” Wathey said.
Currently, citizenship requirements do not apply to the UTM Campus Council or its standing committees.
According to the Elections Guidelines for the governance bodies, students are eligible to run for seats on the two campus councils or their standing committees as long as they are students in the constituency where they seek election, are nominated by students from the same constituency, and remain a student in the same constituency throughout their term.
The campaign also seeks to address deregulated international student fees and international students’ access to OHIP.
Specifically, the groups are calling on U of T to freeze international student tuition fees for each cohort of incoming students to help make their tuition more predictable over the course of their degree.
According to Wathey, Premier Kathleen Wynne has also expressed interest in giving international students access to OHIP at a CFS-O meeting earlier this month.