At AMS Assembly, Principal Deane answers questions about JDUC redevelopment

Deane fields questions about mental health, international students

AMS Assembly met Thursday night over Zoom.

The AMS was joined by Principal Patrick Deane at a special meeting of its Assembly last Thursday to learn more about The Conversation and the semester ahead.

The Conversation is a project Deane launched to discuss the University’s values, aspirations, and goals with different groups across the University. He began the project during the 2019-20 school year.

After presenting his planned remarks about The Conversation, Deane took questions from Assembly members and other attendees about a range of issues, including the JDUC redevelopment, mental health, and international student fees.

JDUC redevelopment

Jordan Nensi, chair of the AMS Board of Directors, asked Deane about the University’s commitment to the JDUC redevelopment project, which has been delayed due to fundraising challenges.

“It’s supposed to start soon—I recognize those deadlines may not be met, but I’m wondering what the University’s commitments are to ensuring the project moves ahead because, as the students understand it, the remaining events to occur before construction lie with the University,” Nensi said.

Deane said the University remains “powerfully” committed to it.

“The University still regards this as a vitally important project, and we regard our partnership with the students on this project as critically important, too,” Deane said.

Deane said the COVID-19 crisis has added obstacles to the process of breaking ground on the project, pointing to the practicality of construction projects and the challenge of fundraising during the pandemic.

“We are committed to it, to seeing it done, to fulfilling our responsibilities under the agreement we have with you,” Deane said. “We will do it, and I regard the challenges as temporary and things we can overcome.” 

Mental Health

Zaid Kasim, a general member of AMS Assembly, asked Deane about the administration’s commitment to Student Wellness Services (SWS) and mental health on campus. 

“I think we can all agree that COVID-19 has especially outlined the need for mental health services, and a lot of groups on campus and students are unhappy with how SWS has operated—especially in the last year,” Kasim said. “Given the fact that funding is an ongoing issue, has the administration had any conversations about how they will fund SWS going forward, perhaps hiring more staff, including BIPOC specific [staff]?”

Deane said the University is doing its best to improve the quality of the services.

“We’re all too painfully aware of the demand and the need for mental health wellness services,” Deane said.

“All universities are struggling to confront this issue because the demand is enormous and the internal resources to support it and fund it are finite.”

He said the University is petitioning the provincial government for support because they recognize the pandemic-related strains on mental health and wellness across Ontario.

He also said BIPOC counselling is a “critically important” issue on campus.

“[W]e’ve known since the summer that we need to build our resources in that area. That has our attention.”

International Students 

Charlotte Galvani, commissioner of campus affairs, asked Deane to address the current tuition rates for international students.

“International students play a crucial part of the goal of making Queen’s an international community. So, in light of this, how is the University justifying the current tuition rates for international students and how will Queen’s better support international students with financial and other barriers?” Galvani asked.

Deane took a moment to gather his thoughts before responding.

“The important thing to understand about international student fees is that they are where they are to compensate for the fact that international students cannot be subsidized by the tax payers of the province,” he said.

Deane said the cost of educating a domestic student is offset by the grant that comes from the Province, so the fees a student pays only cover part of the cost of educating them.

“The Province provides no support for international students,” Deane said. “They encourage universities to bring in international students, but they do not provide financial support. That’s the reason for the differential fee.”

He said that, within that structure, universities try to make international fees a proper proportional of the real cost of educating that student. 

“No one takes pleasure in charging international students high fees,” Deane said. “We do need to recognize that international students aren’t covered by the taxpayers of Ontario, but we also want them here.”

The most important way to address the issue, according to Deane, is to increase the amount of financial aid available to international students to offset the higher fees.

“As an institution seeks to grow its international presence, we need to be raising money to put towards the internationalization of the University,” he said. “Part of which, would go into bursaries and scholarships for international students.”

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