International students face unique issues such as the differential fee and the stress of moving to a new country. As a result, it is difficult for our Students’ Union to understand their issues since, in the last 5 years, there has not been a single international student who has been an executive of the Students’ Union.
Furthermore, international students make up 20% of the undergraduate population but only have 4% of the seats on Students’ Council. So there is a lack of proper representation for international students on our union. It’s unfortunate since this, for many students, is their first time participating in a democratic process.
In addition - there are barriers such as their immigration status which may prohibit them from running. For example, an international student must maintain a full course load in order to maintain a study visa. As a result, it is unclear what process an international student must follow, immigration-wise, if they chose to run.
There are many reasons why an International student may not get involved on campus, such as the initial culture shock, working in order to pay tuition, or the general insular nature of the SU. However, I believe there are key actions we can take to give proper representation.
Establish an International Representative position on the Students’ Union. This permanent position will allow for international students to be consistently represented on council and for their perspective to always be present.
Collaborate with the ISA (International Students Association) in order to give them representative status within the first 60 days. This will allow them to lobby more independently and effectively.
Work with Discover Governance to create a guide for international students which highlights the barriers they can face if they run for an executive election and how to overcome those barriers.