Recently, Concordia University has received complaints concerning the homestay and housing needs of its international students. Concordia is concerned about the well-being of its students and takes seriously the issues raised. While Concordia is not involved in providing homestay services, it has undertaken a careful review of the allegations.
The homestay service is in very high demand. A large number of new students coming to Concordia through the Concordia China Student Recruitment Partner Program request homestay placements. There is no doubt that housing information and assistance for international students is essential. Both the university and student groups make available information to assist students. While Concordia does not refer students to homestay programs, the university remains concerned about those students and their experiences in them.
The university has received the full collaboration of the administrator/director of the Concordia China Student Recruitment Partner Program, Peter Low, who has adhered to the highest standards while helping students from China begin their studies at Concordia. Low, who directs students to homestay as an option and receives no remuneration from homestay providers, has delivered to the university key correspondence with Concordia students placed in homestays. These written exchanges and other evidence gathered to date suggest that the complaints reported on by the media are likely the result of miscommunication.
On October 2, university representatives contacted approximately 5,200 international students, indicating concern about the reports and inviting them to contact the dean of students if they have issues relating to off-campus housing. Indeed, the university will attempt to resolve misunderstandings in this respect. To date, only three responses have been received.
The university continues to be responsive, in light of the allegations made, and with the small number of students who have come forward. It has put in place an action plan and struck a working group with student representation to ensure that any concerns are dealt with swiftly and comprehensively.
The university is currently working to establish virtual and on-site orientation sessions in the native language of international students where concentrations suggest it would be useful. These sessions will feature information on housing and tenant rights. Annual interviews will also be conducted with homestay students to review their experiences and identify aspects requiring improvement.
“These are solid first steps,” says Vice-President, Services, Roger Côté. “However, we recognize there is always room for improvement. As such, the working group, which involves the presidents of Concordia’s Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and the Concordia Student Union (CSU), as well as representatives from others involved in providing housing assistance and guidance to international students, is collaborating further in support of international student needs.”
For CSU President Schubert Laforest, this has represented a welcome opportunity to bring undergraduate voices to the table. “We’re pleased to be working with the university and it’s my sincere hope that together we can enhance the university experience for international students here at Concordia,” he says.
Daria Saryan, president of the GSA, adds that "at the GSA, we think this is an important issue and are pleased that the university is sincere in working towards better understanding the situation and finding solutions that allow international students to focus on their academic and para-academic activities. We look forward to continued collaboration."
Concordia University welcomes and encourages the input of all its students. Those who wish to report on their homestay experience should contact the office of the Dean of Students at 514-848-2424, ext. 3517. All calls will be kept strictly confidential.