The World University Services of Canada (WUSC) is a leading NGO based in Ottawa that focuses on international development. One of WUSC’s primary programs is the Student Refugee Program that works to sponsor student refugees who want to pursue post-secondary education across Canada. Between our campuses and colleges, the University of Toronto holds seven of the 80 WUSC committees located across the country.
I have had the privilege of being the President of the local WUSC Committee at Innis College for the past two years. Throughout the 2015/2016 year, my committee and I dedicated ourselves to the extensive application and budgeting process that allowed us to host our refugee student for the year. This past August, I proudly held up my “Welcome to the University of Toronto” sign and greeted our student at Pearson International Airport. It wasn’t until that very moment, when other members from local committees across the GTA crowned together holding their own welcome signs, that I realized this incredible organization was single-handedly changing lives.
As many of you are aware, our student fees are included within our tuition and are governed by our autonomous student council. WUSC functions in our College as a levy group that receives $3.50 per semester from each Innis student. This allows us to sponsor one student every two years, while most local committees at U of T are able to host a student annually. However, due to our small student population, the levy amount is much lower than the average committee’s. Last year, during the ICSS Referendum, I proposed a $3.50 increase in the WUSC student levy in the hopes of supporting a student every year. To my extreme disappointment, this did not pass as we needed two-thirds majority from the students who voted. To put these numbers into perspective, the college has an estimated student population of 2000 students. Only 93 students participated in the referendum last year. It was these 93 students that decided the fate of WUSC and closed the door on hosting a refugee student every year. We ultimately lost by two votes. Just two.
That being said, I plan to once again propose a levy increase in this year’s upcoming ICSS referendum. My goal is to run a strong “Yes” campaign and be as transparent as possible. I want Innis students to know about WUSC and where their student fees are going. While the preamble in the referendum last year gave a brief description of the organization and where the fee increase would go, I know that our message was lost amidst numerous other proposals. I get it, our tuition increases every year. When there is a referendum and it contains pages of different groups asking for more money, the general consensus is that students will vote it down. For this reason, I need to make sure that our WUSC committee’s voice is heard.
Our Student Refugee Program is a truly incredibly cause, and I know that our student population wouldn’t be so quick to reject it if they knew more about the organization and were educated on refugee and migrant rights. Every day, the current refugee crisis continues to grow and we are living in a critical moment in history where humans are not only shut out, but also targeted. It’s easy to feel like you can’t make a difference as a student. But, this referendum can make a difference. Vote to increase funding for refugee students. Vote YES.
Image curtesy of Chiao Sun.