By Sonja Puzic
University and college students displaced by the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina are not likely to resume their studies at Ryerson University, but President Sheldon Levy has nevertheless joined other North American universities in offering help to those wishing to temporarily pursue their degrees in Canada.
In a letter to the United States Ambassador to Canada, David H. Wilkins, Levy offered his condolences to those affected by Hurricane Katrina’s devastation on the U.S. Gulf Coast and wrote that the Ryerson community “would consider it a privilege” to help in any way it can.
“We wanted to write to share our belief that if everyone thinks hard about how best to help, or what special assistance they can offer, together we can focus on hope,” Levy wrote. “If there is anything we can do for our sister colleges and universities, it would be an honour to hear from you.”
More than 35 Canadian post-secondary institutions have publicly announced their offers to assist eligible students from affected areas in the American South.
Among them are the University of Toronto, the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia.
The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) is now co-ordinating offers of help from Canadian universities and working with the American Council on Education to determine the needs of U.S. students and faculty.
“What we are trying to do is be part of a world-wide community of universities and colleges willing and anxious to help,” Levy said. “But what we didn’t want to do was create more confusion. So we tried to do it through bodies like the ambassador and the AUCC.”
“Making the offer and reaching out is part of world citizenship, but I think the likelihood of a displaced student that would think of Ryerson first is remote,” Levy said.
Levy said Ryerson administration has been trying to locate one Ryerson student and 42 alumni in the Gulf Coast to make sure they are safe. He is not sure if any of them have been contacted yet.
An estimated 100,000 post-secondary students have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina so far.
A website, CampusRelief.org, has been launched to list offers from higher education institutions and the needs of displaced students.
Ryerson University has not yet made a public announcement about its offer to help.