Presidential candidates grilled over international student issues

In the second forum of the day, Students’ Union presidential candidates fielded questions on how they would fight increases to international students’ tuition and increase the representation of international students in student governance.

The International Students’ Association (ISA) forum was held hours after the one at Campus Saint-Jean earlier on March 2. The first question directed to candidates Ilya Ushakov, Reed Larsen, and Shane Scott came from a student who was an observer at the Board of Governor’s Finance and Property Committee’s meeting this Tuesday, where they passed a proposal to increase international student tuition by 3.14 per cent. The increase still needs to pass the Board of Governors for final approval.

“I want to know what you’re going to do for me as an international student,” the audience member said. “During the meeting on Tuesday, I felt really helpless.”

Other questions directed to the presidential candidates focused on their plans for stopping increases to international student tuition, including what immediate steps they could take, short of securing a freeze on tuition, and how they would gauge their progress on making the lives of international students’ better.

Presidential candidate Ilya Ushakov Richard Bagan

Ushakov, who is the current vice-president (student life), said he’d work on empowering the ISA by making them a representative association. He also said he’d work to better include international students in the university’s strategic planning.

“Right now the ISA is a student group and that is unacceptable,” Ushakov said. “The ISA will be a student representative association with some delegated authority.”

Larsen, who is the current vice-president (external), expanded on the work he’s done with the Council of Alberta University Students and the recent public campaign they ran on publicizing the hardships faced by international students. He also said provincial regulation for international students’ tuition would be one of his goals.

Presidential candidate Reed Larsen Richard Bagan

“It bothers me to my core that anybody would go hungry over a 3.14 per cent increase,” he said. “In my term as president, if international students’ tuition is not regulated, I will feel like a failure… I can’t accept that.”

Scott, the current vice-president (academic), said he shares the concerns held by international students, as well as the sentiment that the Students’ Union isn’t doing enough to help them. He said he’d work with the incoming vice-president (external) to make international students an election issue when the province heads to the polls in 2019.

“It really is a shame we haven’t been able to realize more concrete solutions beyond the domestic tuition freeze,” Scott said.

International student representation and thoughts on banning fraternities

Presidential candidate Shane Scott Richard Bagan

The candidates were also asked what they’d do to increase the representation of international students in governance. Scott said he’d open up STRIDE, the Students’ Union’s initiative to boost gender representation in student governance, to international students. Ushakov said he’d want to include international students in his proposed SU president’s advisory council.

Larsen, on the other hand, said he’d want international students to have the choice to reduce their course load so they’d be more inclined to run.

Questions were not limited to the subject of international students. One questioner asked candidates if they would support a ban on fraternities. All three candidates spoke about the importance of Greek live. Both Scott and Larsen said they support the Greek community, but suggested more and better training on sexual assault prevention. Meanwhile, Ushakov talked about the current investigation into Delta Kappa Epsilon, and how student group policies need to be revisited to improve things for fraternities.

Nathan Fung

Nathan Fung is a sixth-year political science student and The Gateway's news editor for the 2018-19 year. He can usually be found in the Gateway office, turning coffee into copy.

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