Good morning, and TGIF!
If there’s one thing academics are good at, it’s crafting persuasive and eloquent statements and arguments, and earlier this week we looked at some PSE statements of Outrage & Condemnation, as well as Solidarity & Solace.
But in times of war, actions speak louder than words of course. Yesterday I summed up the many ways in which higher ed institutions have been contributing to sanctions and boycotts of Russia.
Today (to end the week on a slightly more upbeat note), we turn to the ways in which academe has been offering supports to impacted institutions, scholars and students. Some institutions have gone so far as to defer or even waive tuition, offer free accommodation, and of course mental health supports and emergency bursaries. But student leaders from across the UK have developed an even broader list of possibilities…
Although most Ukrainians are fiercely loyal to their homeland and intend to return as soon as they are able, millions are understandably fleeing the warzone…
Brutal Military Assault
Russia’s assault on Ukraine has continued to intensify, with scores of soldiers and civilians alike being buried in mass graves in the besieged port city of Mariupol – where Russian bombs destroyed a maternity hospital. Also decried as war crimes: Russian bombs targeted a nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia last week, and cluster bombs have reportedly been deployed in residential neighbourhoods of Kharkiv. The White House is publicly warning that Russia might escalate to using chemical or biological weapons, even under a “false flag” as pretense for even greater attacks.
The assault on Ukraine is occurring by air, land and sea, and I described last Friday the battlefronts in space and cyberspace, too. But at a microscopic level, the people of Ukraine are also still struggling in their war on the COVID19 pandemic. Just prior to the Russian invasion, only 35% of Ukrainians had been vaccinated, allowing Omicron waves to surge in November and early February. (The country’s test positivity rate was a shocking 60% just weeks ago.) Further spikes in infection are inevitable, but with damaged hospitals and social infrastructure, COVID19 may well have the perfect breeding ground to incubate new variants as well. In the 1990s, 65% of major disease outbreaks occurred in conflict zones or among refugees: “War is an infectious disease’s best friend.” And as if that weren’t bad enough, Polio resurfaced in a “biological emergency” in Ukraine back in Oct 2021, and vaccination efforts have been halted by the Russian assault.
As of Mar 8, the UN calculated that refugees leaving Ukraine had topped 2 million, and the UN projects up to 4M refugees. (Considering that Ukraine’s population was 44M, that seems likely to be an underestimate.) In many ways, those who escape Ukraine are the lucky ones: there are far too many horror stories of racial discrimination against people of colour attempting to cross the borders into Poland, and thousands of international students are still stranded in Ukraine (like some 800 medical students from India and Africa in Sumy). In fact, men of fighting age are still not permitted to leave the country, so only female students and scholars, essentially, are crossing those borders right now. (Not sure how many of the 128,000 academics in Ukraine are female.) Based on historical examples in Syria, Venezuela, and elsewhere, experts warn that many Ukrainian researchers will likely face exile, harassment or worse in the months ahead, as will the Russians who support them. Universities are typically targets for “intellectual dismantling” through the harassment, kidnapping and murder of selected professors, researchers and students.
“The Terror-Famine (Holodomor) perpetrated on Ukrainian peasantry by Stalin was accompanied by a purge of Ukrainian intellectuals.” – Ani Kokobobo, chair of Slavic and Eurasian languages and literatures, uKansas
Students in Russia
The war on Ukraine will not only create millions of Ukrainian refugees, but Western sanctions have has prompted tens of thousands of Russians to leave their own country, and some 315,000 international students in Russia are doubtless considering their options too.
The EU is offering temporary work permits for up to 3 years, and the UK is offering to accept up to 200,000 refugees if they have family in the country already. Canada is home to the world’s largest Ukrainian diaspora, aside from Russia, and many arrived here as refugees from past conflicts. On Feb 24, the Trudeau government announced special admission policies for Ukrainian nationals, allowing an unlimited number to stay in Canada for 2 years on an emergency basis. Canada is also prioritizing applications of Ukrainians with family here, and extending existing visas. (3 profs from uLaval, uOttawa and uWinnipeg point out that these new policies nonetheless still have gaps.) Resettlement agencies and associations in Canada are organizing donations, compiling lists of housing and assisting with visa applications. Lloyd Axworthy says Canada should aim to accept 1M or more refugees fleeing Ukraine. Saskatchewan’s immigration minister says the province should be their “destination of choice” in Canada. One Ukrainian student in SK is calling on Ottawa to ease visa requirements still further.
Every PSE in the world (except China and Russia) is offering mental health supports to their faculty, staff and students, and organizing or participating in small fundraising events to benefit Ukrainians and refugees. Some countries and PSEs are going further, though…
Scholars at Risk and the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund attempt to assist refugee academics and encourage governments and institutions worldwide to provide proactive supports. (25 CdnPSEs are members of the SAR-Canada section.) SAR’s statement of solidarity with Ukraine on Mar 2 mentions the likely need for temporary academic positions, financial support, fellowship programs, and expedited immigration, work and study visa processes for all those displaced by the war. IIE-SRF is trying to match referrals of Ukrainian academics at risk with offers of temporary positions elsewhere. (A handful of Harvard undergrads have just launched a “stripped-down version of Airbnb” to match Ukrainian refugees with 4,000+ people offering accommodation, too. Some are even offering to pay for airline tickets.) One Czech prof is looking for programmers to create an app to consolidate the data from European national Erasmus agencies, which have been collecting information about positions on offer.
France is funding 3 months of emergency financial assistance to Ukrainian researchers and their families, in conjunction with a French host institution, to allow them to prepare an application for the normal PAUSE program. Several Israeli universities are offering temporary academic posts to displaced Ukrainian scholars, and at least one wants to relocate his entire laboratory there.
No doubt many institutions are quietly offering supports to their students from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. (Typical announcements about mental health services include these from Selkirk College, uGuelph,Wilfrid Laurier U, or uManitoba.) I can only offer you a summary of what I’ve seen in media reports or institutional announcements, as a sampling…
A Checklist by Students
Student leaders from across the UK have compiled a list of ways that universities can support students from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and bordering countries. Out of a “duty of care,” institutions should offer all students from the region counselling supports, and in particular protect Russian students from harassment based on the actions of their government. Institutions need to “offer and clearly signal” the availability of hardship funds, with a streamlined process and minimal evidence required. The students also believe universities should offer “rent amnesties and tuition fee waivers” to impacted students, and provide free accommodation over Easter and summer breaks. “We recommend that universities implement and proactively offer bespoke exceptional circumstances arrangements to ensure that students from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus are fully supported academically and no students are needlessly worrying about passing assignments during such a terrible situation.” (They also encourage many of the sanctions I outlined yesterday, including helping students abroad return to the UK, committing to immediate divestment in Russian or Belarusian companies, rejecting donations from Russian oligarchs, and reconsidering any partnerships with Russian institutions.) WonkHE
Transfers in Europe
Displaced students from Ukraine are being offered streamlined enrolment, credit transfer, emergency housing and/or supports at many European institutions, including Budapest U of Tech, Slovak U of Tech, Tech U of Moldova, and uZurich.
Students in Canada
Canada is already home to 1,500 international students from Ukraine, reports Alex Usher, with 1,011 in Ontario and 246 in BC. All are worried about their families back home, and some wish to return to the front lines themselves. As of 2017 at least, Canada hosted about as many Russian students (2,625) as Ukrainian (2,820). Russian students in Canada are also impacted by the war and the sanctions, which cut them off from family finances. Most CdnPSEs offer emergency bursaries, but some have specifically announced new supports for students impacted by the war on Ukraine. And with unprecedented anxieties and stresses, the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union says affected students need consistent academic accommodations from all their profs, not one-off case-by-case decisions. (One uToronto prof hasn’t made friends by insisting it would be unfair to other students to offer extensions to those from Ukraine.)
“I left Russia 9 years ago to escape these kinds of situations, and now every day you feel like you’re in a nightmare that you’re trying to wake up from.” – Yana Kuzmenko, Russian grad student, Western U
Supports at BC Institutions
UBC was among the first institutions to hit my radar, offering tuition deferrals and emergency bursaries for students impacted by the war on Ukraine. (UBC has 160 Russian students, 60 Ukrainian, and 4 from Belarus.) UNBC says it will consider waiving some application fees and offer expedited reviews for applicants from the region. CTV | CKPG Today
uAlberta to Waive Tuition
uAlberta will waive 2022-23 tuition fees for Ukrainian study permit holders facing financial hardship, and will provide funding to help with living costs to incoming and current Ukrainian students. UofA also expedited admission applications from Ukraine, and simplified documentation requirements. Explains president Bill Flanagan, “Our support for Ukrainian students reflects the university’s longstanding commitment to aiding students fleeing civil war, persecution or other life-threatening situations.” CTV
“As we continue to watch the devastation occurring in Ukraine, the University of Alberta has a particular responsibility to respond… We want to be a home and a refuge for the people who are suffering in Ukraine, as best we can.” – Bill Flanagan, president, uAlberta
“System of Support” at Western
Yesterday, Western U unveiled a “system of support” for students and faculty affected by the Ukraine crisis, developed in consultation with the Western Ukrainian Students’ Association and Western International. Measures include a drop-in counselling centre, priority appointments for mental health, immediate financial aid assistance, academic accommodations, and summer housing. Western is also considering what role it can play in supporting displaced students and scholars on a short-term basis. Plans include a refugee scholarship program, short-term research opportunities, and the scholars-at-risk program. Western News
Toronto Institutions Step Up
Humber College, in partnership with the Ukrainian Students’ Club, is offering students food vouchers, mental health supports, and deferred fee payments for this and next semester. uToronto says it is providing emergency living funds to impacted students, and considering tuition deferrals on a case-by-case basis. CTV
Kingston Rallies Funds
The Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston (ON), under the patronage of the mayor, has established a fund for community contributions to support about 20 Ukrainian students at Queen’s U and St Lawrence College. Many have been cut off from family back home, and will suddenly have to pay for living expenses through the summer. (Queen’s is also offering supports to students from Ukraine, Russia, and those with connections to the region.) The Kingstonist | Global | Queen’s Gazette
“Our parents were displaced persons from Ukraine after the last war, so when they ended up in Kingston, Kingstonians opened their arms and said, ‘How can we help?’” – Nadia Luciuk, secretary-treasurer, Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston
Students Helping Ukraine
Bita Azad, a 2nd year med student at uOttawa, started a fundraiser for Canadian med students to donate to the Canadian Red Cross’s Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal, towards food, heat, medical supplies and shelter. Med schools at Memorial, McMaster, uAlberta, uManitoba, and uCalgary have agreed to participate too.
Here’s an upbeat video to wind up the week, even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with today’s theme…
This is Vassar
Vassar College (NY) released an upbeat, dynamic :90-sec recruitment spot late last month that communicates “abundant energy.” From music and athletics to classrooms, labs, and galleries, quick cuts convey student and faculty enthusiasm for their “home.” “Learning happens where edges meet, where sparks fly, where I can be myself. What could you do here?” YouTube
As always, thanks for reading!
I hope you have a great weekend – and for those of you who still have clocks that don’t do it automatically, remember to lose an hour on Sunday morning (in most parts of Canada, at least).
Stay safe and be well,
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