Oral History Collection on Student Activism
Interview with Kumaraswamy Ponnambalam conducted by Ruth Belay
Dr. Kumaraswamy Ponnambalam, currently a Professor in Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo, graduated from the University of Toronto with his PhD in 1987. Dr. Ponnambalam shares his experiences as an international student, reflecting on what brought him to UofT and some of the challenges he faced in attending the University. In particular, he focuses on the financial and workload pressures placed on students. He recalls some of the support networks that were created on campus, both through social activities, for example through residence and the International Student Centre, academic collaboration, and demonstrations. These networks also extended outside of the University, in particular between Tamil-speaking communities. Dr. Ponnambalam describes the impact of differential fees as a UofT student and his continued response as he now observes the current financial barriers faced by international students. At the request of Dr. Ponnambalam, this oral history interview is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Sinnathurai Vijayakumar who played a profound role in Dr. Ponnambalam's life, particularly while at UofT.
Please note that this interview contains a racial slur used when Dr. Ponnambalam describes racial harassment he faced [approx. 00:22:15].
- International Student Centre, University of Toronto
- Graduate Student Union (UTGSU)
- University of Waterloo
- Differential student fees
- Education affordability
- International students
- Canadian South Asian communities
- Sri Lankan Tamil (Eelam) independence movement
- Tamil language
- Early computing
- Student residence
- Student labour
- Academic hiring practices
Citation: University of Toronto Archives. Oral History Collection on Student Activism. Oral history interview with Kumaraswamy Ponnambalam conducted by Ruth Belay, 20 February 2020. A2020-0010/009S.