Côté sat down with student media to discuss initiatives the administration will enact, in response to an article published in The Link on Sept. 25. The article stated that some Chinese international students have had negative experiences with the Concordia China Student Recruitment Partnership Program and the Premier Homestay program.
“It came to light that some students were experiencing difficulty with the homestay program,” said Côté. He went on to explain that while the university administration was concerned about students who had bad experiences in a homestay, the program is not run by Concordia.
“Students elect to do that on their own,” he said. It is arranged “independently” from Concordia and Côté emphasized that it is a “private arrangement” which international students are in no way required to do.
Peter Low is the director of the CCSRPP via the university’s agreement with his company, Orchard Consultants Ltd. The company is authorized to represent ConU at educational fairs and presentations as well as accept tuition and fee payments from international students.
On Oct. 2, a letter was sent out to Concordia’s 5,200 international students encouraging anyone who had complaints or concerns to come forward.
“While some students may hesitate to launch complaints for fear of compromising their academic or immigration status. We assure you that is not the case,” read the letter. “We urge you to take advantage of Concordia’s student services or contact the Dean of Students office for immediate assistance.”
Members of the administration spent the next few weeks reviewing the situation and coming up with six measures to help clarify the CCSRPP’s information and investigate complaints further.
“Given the fact that there were few responses [to the letter], we wanted to proactively reach out,” said Côté.
One of the main focuses of the initiative was to call for the translation of all relevant documents into Mandarin as well as English. The pre-departure guides created by the International Students Office, the documentation provided by the CCSRPP and homestay applications will all be made available in Mandarin in the future.
University spokesperson, Chris Mota, explained that while the university can ask to have these changes made, it is not in the “parameters of the contract” with Orchard. Côté, however, said that he was optimistic these changes would be made nonetheless.
“It’s in the interest of all parties to be as helpful and supportive to students and make things as clear as possible,” he said. “We’re interested in working with individuals that have the best interests of our students at heart. Those are the kind of partners that we want to have.”
This fall, a survey will be created to gain a better understanding of “student needs relating to university residence with a focus on international students.” Student enrolment services will also conduct annual interviews with a random sampling of 15 per cent CCSRPP students.
“We’ll be asking students to come in and talk about their experiences,” said Côté. “We want to be responsive and supportive of the needs of students, especially those who travel halfway around the globe to get here.”
The last measures will be to establish an online orientation session for new international students in not only Mandarin, but Arabic and Farsi as well, and update all references to the CCSRPP on the Concordia website.
Earlier this week, at the Concordia Student Union meeting on Wednesday, a motion was passed to formally review the situation. Côté explained that he had already met with student representatives to discuss the issue and hoped to collaborate with them further.
According to Côté, the contract with Orchard is almost up and is currently under review.