Memorial University waives fee for students hit by Trump travel ban
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- A Newfoundland university says the response has been overwhelming after it waived application fees for students from the seven predominantly Muslim countries targeted by a temporary U.S. immigration ban.
"Phone calls and emails are just flooding the office," Noreen Golfman, provost and vice-president of academics at Memorial University of Newfoundland, said Tuesday in an interview from St. John's.
"One of our senior staff is working 24-7. I'm afraid he's going to burn out."
Golfman confirmed Tuesday that the school has received double the number of inquiries it usually gets from students in the United States since Donald Trump was elected president Nov. 8 -- and she said there was another spike after he announced the ban on Jan. 27.
So far, the school has waived the $120 fee for at least 54 applicants.
Golfman said she is not aware of any other Canadian universities currently making a similar offer, but she has heard others are expected to follow Memorial's lead.
Most of the inquiries from foreign-born students are coming from those with Iranian citizenship. On campus, Iranians represent the largest group of international students, next to those of Chinese descent.
In addition to students from the seven countries, Memorial made the same offer to American students.
Golfman said the university wanted to respond quickly to Trump's actions.
"Following on the heels of Canada admitting (so many) Syrian families, this is a logical extension of all of that," she said.
The school issued a statement Jan. 30, saying it was deeply concerned about Trump's executive order, which prevented individuals from the seven countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days.
Trump's actions pose a "significant threat to the free flow of people and ideas and to the values of diversity, inclusion and openness, hallmarks of a strong and healthy society," the statement said.
"Our university community is stronger, more vibrant, innovative and progressive because of the diversity of the people who choose to engage in teaching, learning and research activities here."
The university's statement said the order has affected international studies, academic conferences, and in some cases family relationships in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Though Trump's order has been suspended by a U.S. court, Golfman said the university has no plans to lift its offer.
She said the gesture could mean a great deal to students spooked by the decree, which applies to people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
"It's an anxious time for a lot of people," she said.
Meanwhile, the university is looking into offering first-semester scholarships to those affected by the ban.
As well, the university is encouraging all students and faculty travelling to the U.S to first contact the Internationalization Office, saying its immigration advisors are available to provide advice on obtaining visas, study permits or other immigration documents.
-- By Michael MacDonald in Halifax