International graduate students now eligible to hold TA & RA positions

Through negotiations facilitated by PSAC 901, Queen’s has reversed its decision to deny employment on basis of location 

The International Students Working Group (ISWG) have campaigned since September to reverse the University’s decision.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Late this summer, international graduate students living abroad found, due to their location, they would be unable to hold TA or RA positions during the Fall 2020 term. 

Graduate students, who often rely on income from TA and RA positions to fund their education, had to either return to Canada in the middle of a pandemic or forfeit employment. 

Due to the work of international graduate student leaders and activists over the past semester, this will no longer be the case.

READ MORE: Queen’s denying many international students employment during COVID-19

notice released on Nov. 27 by  the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC 901) stated that international graduate students at Queen’s “are now eligible to receive TA/RA/TF contracts regardless of their current place/country/location of residence, and can perform the duties remotely starting Winter 2021 term.”

“This settlement comes as a great relief especially to migrant student-workers who have been facing numerous and unforeseen hardships due to the travel, immigration and visa restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rohit Revi, PSAC 901 president, said in a message to The Journal

“We are thankful for the support of campus communities […] The support that we received from PSAC staff has also been incredible.”

The change represents a win for the International Students Working Group (ISWG), who have campaigned since September to reverse the University’s decision. 

“We were doing an active media campaign,” ISWG member Canan Sahin, a PhD candidate at Queen’s, said in an interview with The Journal. “We created an immense pressure from below. Media interviews, radio podcasts, journal articles and on-the-ground organizing were going hand in hand.”  

The ISWG also penned a joint letter to Principal Patrick Deane and Dean of Graduate Studies, Fahim Quadir, requesting the summer’s policy be reversed.

“The University has generally been aggressive in the way they have dealt with these kinds of situations,” Harshavardhan Thyagarajan, another ISWG member, said.

“Extremely basic decency has become something we’ve had to fight very hard for.”

READ MORE: Some international students at Queen’s face a winter break away from home

Since the policy was seemingly unrelated to the eligibility of international students living abroad to be employed in Canada, the ISWG felt logic was on their side throughout the campaign. 

Revi urged students and administrators alike to be patient as issues may continue to arise. 

“I think it is important to recognize that the current situation is an unfamiliar one to all of us and it brings with itself a lot of new and unanticipated challenges.”

“It is important that we continue to work towards ensuring that no one is hurt in the process of adapting to the new conditions.”

Sahin added that the new policy would better protect international graduate students living abroad, many of whom have chosen not to return to Canada to protect themselves and their loved ones from the health and safety risks brought on by COVID-19.  

“The settlement allows our community members to reside in the place of their preference because of the health and safety risks and extraordinary circumstances that we’re encountered [with] (sic) today […] while performing the labour and duties that are actually part of the funding packages offered by the Queen’s University.”

“Seeing this happen gives our members hope and confidence. When we really get organized, when we make our voice heard, we can make a difference.” 

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