York University is reaching out to Syrians fleeing a violent civil war in search of new beginnings, joining forces with three other Toronto area universities.
“While this global crisis requires a global response, we strongly believe that, together with our university partners in the GTA, there is much we can do as a local community to coordinate and augment our efforts,” said Mamdouh Shoukri, York U’s President and Vice-Chancellor.
In this recently formed collaboration, York U, along with Ryerson University, the University of Toronto and OCAD University, has partnered with the citizen-led initiative Lifeline Syria Challenge to facilitate private sponsorships, raise funds and engage volunteers in a coordinated effort to assist Syrian refugees.
“We want to fully engage with and encourage the support of the entire York University community – students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors – in this very important initiative,” Shoukri added.
Three York teams are already in place, with more mobilizing. Two project coordinators are being deployed to provide logistical support to current and future Syrian refugee support teams, which will include students from York and Ryerson.
In another similar effort, York U’s Osgoode Hall Law School is joining the University of Ottawa’s Refugee Support Program to match law students with immigration and refugee lawyers in an experiential education initiative that will see the students provide pro-bono assistance to asylum seekers.
“With its deep roots in social justice, as a community, the University has a special and distinct role to play in responding to this and other global refugee crises,” said Osgoode’s Dean Lorne Sossin, who is encouraging individuals interested in creating a Syrian Refugee support team or those who need to connect with the incoming project coordinators, to contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, York University is responding to the crisis through formal supports for volunteer teams, new experiential learning opportunities, and an enhanced tuition and bursary program for refugee students.
Currently, York University’s student chapter of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) receives support from York students who pay a referendum-approved levy that supports tuition and accommodation costs for refugee students. This provides the opportunity for one student annually to study at the Keele Campus and one student every three years to study at the Glendon Campus.
“Building on York’s successful long-term relationship with WUSC is a sustainable response to the recurring challenges refugees face in accessing postsecondary education,” said Christina Clark-Kazak, acting director of York’s Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS).
The CRS coordinates a number of research and educational projects in relation to the global refugee crisis, most recently through the Borderless Education for Refugees Program (BHER) which makes educational programs available where refugees need them.
York is enhancing its institutional commitment, and effective 2016, the University is making available five four-year tuition waivers for WUSC-sponsored refugee students at the regular tuition rate, of which one waiver will be directed to support a student at the graduate level of study. The University has put into place five first-year waivers to assist with costs for University residence fees and meal plans.
York University has committed to expanding these programs by raising additional funds for the bursaries, so that refugee students, whether they are sponsored by WUSC or not, can receive more financial assistance. Funds can be directed to the CRS Bursary for refugees through a new online giving portal.
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