The Dal Quarantine Scam
by cabaltime · January 16, 2021
Dalhousie University is scamming returning International Students into doing their Quarantine at private hotels for a whopping cost of $813-$1,627.36, even if they have the option to safely quarantine at their place of residence, and even if they have paid full leases for private accomodation! This is in open violation of the already draconian Provincial Laws. If they operate a Law School yet have no qualms about violating Provincial Laws, you get the picture of how scummy they really are. After a petition to refund the costs gathered more than 2000 signatures, Dalhousie did some damage control, stating that this was neccessary to keep their status as a “Designated Learning Institution.” Is this really the case? What if there is some undocumented arrangement between bigshots at Dal and the private hotels involved, who are being paid in full, and at the market rate? Remember that Dal is paying the hotels for any difference to the market rate using its own funds, which have been set aside especially for this. These funds in turn, are largely courtesy the taxpayer, which are being diverted to private hotels! So the Powers That Be are not just fleecing International Students…..
Here is the fulltext of the Petition. Do sign it.
I also wanted to use this post to clear up some misconceptions I’ve noticed as this petition has grown. The sentiment that this petition is just an example of whiny entitled university students who want to travel home for the holidays and have the university pay in full for them to quarantine in a fancy hotel could not be further from the truth. Dalhousie was just added to the Designated Learning Institution (DLI) list this semester, and with this they increased the number of in person courses offered. I would suspect that the majority of students coming back this semester are NOT returning students, but are in fact coming back for the first time. Many students have been affected terribly by this and have expressed that they have no clear way to pay for this. It is extremely unethical to hit students with an unplanned $800 expense during COVID-19 given only a month and a half’s notice, especially with the amount of people in this world living paycheck-to-paycheck. Regardless, students from domestic high-risk areas are not forced to pay for an expensive quarantine arrangement, and are free to make private plans to quarantine. We are simply asking for equal treatment. One look at Dalhousie’s financial statement shows what a small amount it would likely be for them to cover the full cost of the hotel quarantine.
I would also like to clarify that I fully support Dalhousie in providing the hotel quarantine as an OPTION, and provided it was optional, it would be reasonable to charge. It is my position that because Dalhousie has made it mandatory to stay in the hotel, regardless of whether or not people have other options available, it is their responsibility to cover the cost of this in full. If Dalhousie truly could not provide any other option, I want to see documented proof of this. I will not take the university at their word, especially not now that it has been contradicted by a provincial spokesperson. If one thing comes out of this, I hope the University begins to understand that treating students poorly is not a way to fix the universities financial health in the long run. I really hope this petition at the very least leads to a much higher standard of communication in the future from the University, situations like this warrant immense explanation and compassion. The fact that is is so insanely expensive to be an international students already, coupled with antics like these are going to hurt the university in the long run. I created this petition because I truly love being at Dal, and think that the greedy path they are going down will eventually hurt the university in the long run. Cutting expenses are well and good this year, but not in a way that hurts vulnerable students and staff. Lastly I’d like to thank the international center at Dalhousie. They had nothing to do with this policy, and have been doing their very best to help people through this terrible situation even though there isn’t much they can offer.
Again, please DM me @noahkivler if you are willing to share your story with a local news network. Thanks everyone!
The purpose of this update is outline how I believe refunds should be issued and why doing so would be in the best interest of the university. I am one student, speaking predominantly my own opinions, this is just a solution I believe could be satisfactory for all students affected.
In short, all students who paid for the hotel quarantine should be refunded $813.68 by the University, regardless of the circumstances that lead to their arrival. The school has maintained that this was the only option provided to them by the province in all the press correspondence I’ve seen, and if this is truly the case, it is still their responsibility to refund students. Furthermore, it is actually in their best interest to do so. Below can be found a detailed explanation for all of the claims made in this paragraph.
International students with no non-essential travel:
This is clear cut. International students were not provided with any option but to stay in the hotel, regardless of whether or not they had an alternative place of stay that would have been more financially forgiving. This treatment is clearly unfair for reasons outlined in the main petition, but in short, it is highly unequal treatment compared to domestic students, and has been called discriminatory by some. The fact that less than 2 months notice was given to international students and their families makes this arrangement even less forgivable.
International Students with non-essential travel:
This is controversial, and will have to be further discussed and negotiated. What I am suggesting is that international students who traveled home for the break be refunded half of the amount ($1627) they paid, and given access to the quarantine bursary program, which they currently do not have. My reason for this is that the decision to pay for a 2 way flight to come home for 2 weeks indicates a decent amount of financial health, and those under hardship would now be able to apply for bursary. Those who can verify a non-recreational purpose to their trip (religious, medical) should be obviously refunded in full, and apologized to personally by the University.
The argument that non-essential travel is irresponsible and frivolous during the pandemic, therefore non-essential travel should receive no refund holds very little weight. Whether or not the decision was safe is beside the point, and highly complex on a case by case basis anyways. Safety is a high priority for myself and most other international students, and their are laws in place that punish dangerous behavior surrounding the pandemic. Domestic students who made the decision to travel home (even to high risk areas) were not forced into a quarantine arrangement and made to pay the bill, therefore it is extremely unfair to do this to international students. The sentiment that international students should have to “pay” for their risky behavior, while domestic students should not is at best ignorant, and at worst nationalistic. The university should not treat ANY of its students like this, domestic or international.
What would a refund look like, and how would it benefit Dalhousie?
The ideal way that these refunds would be issued would be directly into the bank accounts of students via e-transfer in the same way that bursaries are distributed. Seeing as students paid for this upon arriving at the hotel, it would NOT be a good replacement to offer a refund of $813.68 towards future tuition, as this would not alter the immediate financial struggles brought on by the unforeseen payment of over $800 in any considerable way.
This is not just in the best interest of students, but in the best interest of the future of this university as a whole. Dalhousie is developing a reputation for treating its students and staff poorly. In response to decreased enrollment over the past several years, the University has responded by cutting costs at the expense of students and staff. International students at Dalhousie pay some of the highest fees in the entire country, and policies like these work to further damage the trust current students have with Dalhousie. More importantly however, negative press from outwardly exploitative policies like the one this petition will hurt the school’s reputation to a substantial degree. In a sense, Dalhousie has entered into a vicious cycle of decreased enrollments leading to cost cutting and tuition hikes which will inevitably result in further decreased enrollment. Lets say 5 international students were dissuaded from enrolling to Dalhousie as a result of this controversy. Based on Dalhousie’s current fee calculator, these students would be paying $25,229 a year if they are not staying in residence, or about $100,900 for an undergraduate degree, and this is provided they are taking an arts/science curriculum, which is more affordable than some. These 5 prospective students would represent a loss of $504,500, enough to refund around 620 students the amount that we are requesting, double the amount of rooms in the entire Westin Nova Scotian. Negative press immensely hurts Dalhousie, and this treatment of the most vulnerable students in the school has already attracted negative press.
While this is not a part of the demands of this petition, I highly recommend Dalhousie release a genuine apology in a very public way. Language that evades blame should be avoided as this will only make the University seem cold and removed from the struggles of their students. This includes phrases like “some students felt as though” and other redirections of blame. If done properly, a compassionate apology where the university admits fault could be the beginning of Dalhousie beginning to heal its relationship and trust with current international students as well as its reputation with prospective students, something I know is important to Dalhousie as we approach the time of year when students decide where to go to university.
To anyone from Dalhousie University administration reading this: Your public reputation has been damaged by this and the trust of your international students has been broken. I love this University, and I know it is capable of recovering from this, but this will require occasionally putting students before money to preserve the reputation of the school. The good news is, the ball is in your court. I look forward to hearing from you.
Take care everyone, things are looking up.
The University has further substantiated the fact that this plan was chosen because off campus housing would’ve been unfeasible given the number of students traveling to Nova Scotia this year. This is satisfactory to me, but what is not satisfactory is that international students are still stuck paying out of pocket for this, in spite of having no say in where we can quarantine. For those of who have in person classes this semester, traveling to Halifax was anything but recreational, but the focus on the purpose for traveling here is largely misplaced anyways, as it doesn’t excuse such a large expense only affecting international students. For the $13,000 extra we pay each year, emergency unforeseen expenses like this should be covered in full by the University. If the university is able to seek some sort of Grant to pay for this additional $400,000 to pay the hotel bills of students, that is wonderful. If not, it is their responsibility to pay for it in full. It isn’t worth tarnishing the University’s reputation with unfair treatment.
I will be reaching out personally to the university within the next few days, I hope to have a chance to please my case, as I truly believe treating students this way will hurt the school and its reputation in the long run, much more than having to shell out another $300,000 ($400,000 was the number cited by the university for how much it paid to cover half of the bills for us. $100,000 has been allotted to financial aid, which implies that the financial impact of the refund we are proposing would be around $300,000)
Take care everyone, please reach out if you have any news or helpful advice. I hope to have more positive news to share down the line.