The International Students’ Association (ISA) is in search of volunteers to join their executive team after a failed election period earlier this year.
The ISA aims to represent the international student community and played a role in the protests against the Board of Governors’ decision to raise international student tuition by 3.14 per cent earlier this year. Because no candidates ran for any ISA executive positions in the last election period in spring, all positions will remain occupied by last year’s executives until the group can recruit new members.
Students’ Union vice-president (student life) Andre Bourgeois said the SU will be working closely with the ISA to host an election this fall to fill the executive roster.
Akram Hammami, the ISA’s 2017 president and a fifth-year education student, said he’s concerned the group might fall into disarray if the positions aren’t filled quickly as many of the executives forced to remain on board may not have adequate time to dedicate to the ISA. Hammami himself is starting his teaching practicum in September.
“SU Should be doing more to help”
Hammami feels the SU is in part to blame for the failed elections last March. He said they did little to help advertise or run the elections. He said the SU needs to do more to train new executives and help organize the ISA constitution to better advocate for international students.
“Keep in mind that for many new executives, running a student group is new to them,” Hammami added. “It’s difficult to know how to run elections, manage bank accounts, and [fill out] paperwork without being taught. The SU needs to do more to help.”
Hammami said the ISA wants to eventually become more than just a student group. The team wants to provide bursaries for international students and run employment workshops, but it’s hard to do more without the right kind of support.
Bourgeois, who began his term after the failed ISA election, said while he can’t comment on what took place in the past, he understands running a student group isn’t easy.
“I know [elections and executive transitions] can be a challenge for many groups,” Bourgeois said. “It’s especially important for groups like the ISA because they’re a representative body similar to residence or faculty associations.”
Bourgeois said he’s looking at developing new resources such as transition manuals to guide outgoing executives on how to train and prepare incoming executives. Regarding the ISA, Bourgeois said the SU has gathered advocacy files detailing the work performed by past executives in preparation for the next set of elected officials.
SU launches new Cultural Groups Council
To help recruitment new ISA members and to strengthen the international student community, the SU created the Cultural Groups Council earlier this summer. Bourgeois said the council encompasses all cultural groups on campus and hosts regular meetings to discuss international student issues and to foster communication and collaboration between groups.
“[Previously] the entire burden of the election fell on the shoulders of the ISA,” Bourgeois said. “Which is a lot for [executives] to manage especially because it [coincides with] final exams. With the cultural group council, we can get all the cultural groups engaged and involved with the ISA.”
Through the council, Bourgeois said the team has already identified candidates interested in running for ISA executive positions. The group will be meeting again once courses resume to discuss election timelines.
Reigniting the fire
Hammami said part of the ISA’s struggle to recruit executives earlier this year was due to many international students felt disconnected from student politics, particularly after the Board of Governor’s decision to raise international student tuition and residence fees despite student protests.
“One of the ways [international students] stop dealing with the university, is to stop running for student groups or being involved,” Hammami said.
He hopes by kick-starting the ISA again, the process will reunite the international student community.
“I was really inspired during the protests when domestic and international students came together to protest outside the president’s’ office,” Hammami said. “I really want to see that again when it comes to keeping the ISA alive.”
With the launch of the Cultural Groups Council, Bourgeois said he hopes to see something similar.
“I’m hoping [the cultural group council] will galvanize more energy and spirit from students,” Bourgeois said. “The protests earlier this year is a great example showing how this energy is still alive on campus.”