Controversy: Should International Officer be ISA President?
Members of the International Students’ Association (ISA) are asking students to vote Re-Open Nominations for International Students’ Officer during this year’s YUSU Elections.
There has been an on going debate over whether or not International Students’ Officer should be elected through YUSU. By YUSU’s statute, the elected officer automatically becomes President of the ISA, meaning International Officer is elected by the entire student body rather than those who are actually engaged with ISA.
The protest, which began roughly a month ago, started with the message being spread across social media groups first in translations then in English. The protest wishes for the role of ISA President to be separated from International Officer on the basis that the roles serve different purpose. While International Students’ Officer is to represents international students’ concerns to the university and to other home students, ISA President is to work with cultural and national societies to represent their home culture – recognising multiculturalism and integration. It should be emphasised that participants of the protest do not expect the results to be RON, the movement is merely to send the message of discontent. They want to stress that the campaign is not an attack on any candidates, but to serve the best interest for international students.
Some members of the ISA argue that International Officer often has never been involved with ISA before, thus often neglecting the committee, requiring other members of the committee to take charge. They are questioning if YUSU Elections is an appropriate place to elect the President of the ISA, as they are required to work with the committee that is elected by their members. After the elections, the ISA will be meeting with YUSU’s Policy Review Group and Policy Coordinator, Peter Warner-Medley, to discuss how they can change the statute.
Current Vice-President of ISA, YN Gan, expressed,
“YUSU elections and the ISA elections attract very different voters. YUSU’s International Officer candidates claim they had no time to attend ISA events because they were busy campaigning. It’s obvious that the target audience of the International Officer is very different from the target audience of the ISA. The International Officer is elected in an election that largely depends on home students’ votes, and is someone that needs to be skilled at networking with home students and staff. The ISA President has to be close to and tuned in to the culture of the ISA and the other national societies. Both roles are important, and both roles are very different. Disassociating the two roles would allow the ISA to have the President it requires, and the university to have the International Officer it requires.”
This year three pairs of candidates are running for International Officers, and none of them have been directly involved with the ISA before. No sign of the candidates could be seen during last week’s Global Week organised by the ISA.
Candidate Roberto Avelar, who is running with Olivia Grütter, told The Yorker,
“It is a valid criticism regarding how none of the candidates are involved with the ISA this year. But their validity is overshadowed by the way they chose to express themselves on a public forum without giving us [candidates] a chance to defend ourselves. None of the members of the ISA committee came to my hustings to question me on my policies and therefore don’t actually know whether or not I have valid thoughts on their concerns. Of the few times I approached any of them, they never indicated that they were worried about me running or asked me how I would deal with the issues they have.
I’ve spent the last few weeks meeting with International Officers from different colleges and international societies, I want to plan larger international events and discuss international students’ well-being. International Officers and ISA should work together to make student life better.”
Results for International Officer will be announced this evening along with the rest of the YUSU Elections results. Current International Officer Aashna Sehgal was not available for comment.