The Algonquin Times staff dissects the college’s decision to open a campus in Jazan.

While much opposition to Algonquin’s involvement has been voiced, we side with the college’s decision to open an international campus in Jazan, Saudi Arabia.

Algonquin’s presence internationally is not new.  In fact, we have campuses in eight countries around the world.  And yes, Saudi Arabia is one of them.

However, in the past few weeks the issues surrounding Algonquin’s international campuses have been brought to the city’s attention.  After recent human rights concerns were raised in the media regarding the college’s Saudi Arabia campus, people’s opinions on the matter haven’t been quiet.

Many seem to be in an uproar about the college’s decision to open campuses internationally, more specifically in countries with such radically different views than our own.

A recent article in the Algonquin faculty union newsletter Local Lines has sparked the questioning.  The article described how five Yemeni nationals were beheaded and on display across the college campus. This subsequently started a storm of concern with Algonquin’s presence in Saudi Arabia.

The campus in Saudi Arabia is an opportunity for people to develop their education.  Introducing trade skills and offering the chance to learn English is a step towards raising the standard of living in Saudi Arabia.  In other words, we’re looking at it from the student’s perspective.

We know Algonquin’s presence probably won’t have an impact, immediate or long-term, on the laws enforced in the country. Surely, that’s a given.

However, what was once not accessible for the people living in Saudi Arabia is now an option.  That’s progress.  We aren’t going to step around the fact that we know the school is not an option for all students: women are not allowed to enrol with Algonquin.

This is one of the concerns that have been in the media.  However, Algonquin tried to do what they could to help with this situation.  

Last January, the college submitted two bids: a bid for a men’s only campus and one for a women’s only campus that would open in 2014.  Algonquin lost the bid for a women’s only campus.  If the future brings new law changes to the country, Algonquin stated that what is now a men’s only college could be open to women.

The international campuses generate a large amount of revenue for the college.  From 2012-13 the eight campuses produced $14.4 million.  The college is expecting $20.9 million in the next five years.  At a time of Ontario government cutbacks, new sources of revenue are a must.

The Jazan campus offers two technician diploma programs.  Over the next few years, more technician and business programs will be added to the school as well.

Both the revenue and the idea for expending the programs in Jazan shows that international campuses are doing well.

On Nov. 8 at the presentation of the International Strategic Draft Plan, Algonquin president Kent MacDonald spoke about his views on the issues going on in Saudi Arabia.

“Before I signed off on this Saudi project, you need to know that I wouldn’t do it until, as I say it, touched the soil,” said MacDonald. “I needed to have my own experience and I needed to look through my own lens on what it’s like.

“It’s different.  It’s different than what it’s like in Canada but I would ask you to consider us when people ask ‘why are we doing business in Saudi Arabia?’ My comment is ‘we’re not doing business in Saudi Arabia, we’re an educational institution and we’re changing people’s lives.’”

There is no doubt that the school will help towards improving these peoples’ lifestyles.  Algonquin is providing people with knowledge they need to help them provide for themselves and their families.

This being said, the Times does have a problem with the Saudi Arabia campus that others seem to have missed.  In fact, we have a problem with all the international campuses.

Why is it that the International Strategic Draft Plan is only being produced and shown to the public now?

The process that the school went through for the international plan is flawed.

Last January, Algonquin bid to open the campus in Saudi Arabia.  Several months later, after almost a full year, the draft plan was introduced.

Once again, our college has a communications problem.

In January, the only benchmark that the college gave out was how it cleared the financial criteria to develop the Jazan campus.  That wasn’t that noteworthy at the time.

But where was the rest of the criteria about the new college?  Tell us your plan, a bit of information.  Anything.

All that we’re asking is for the college to practice what they preach.  If you were to ask any business program student at Algonquin what the right way to start a project is, they would say to develop a plan then follow through with that plan.

Apparently, the college decided to throw this strategy out the window and did it backwards.

If the communications department was open with its people and communicated, maybe Algonquin wouldn’t be spread across so many newspaper headlines.

A draft plan is a plan.  It doesn’t take the leader of the college, or even a first-year business student, to tell you that plans come first.

Written by Molly Hanzidiakou