The International Students’ Association (ISA) went in-depth about a new fee they would ask students to vote on at a recent May 25 town hall.
The proposed fee would cost full-time international students $6 per semester, with part-time students paying $3. Currently, the fee would only apply to undergraduate students, and largely go towards furthering ISA events and programming, as well as providing awards and funding to international students. The ISA invited attendees to fill out a survey responding to the proposed fee and its planned use. Undergraduate international students would have the opportunity to vote on the fee during elections in March 2022.
Chanpreet Singh, ISA president, said that the reason the ISA is holding the townhall “way ahead” of the election date was to ensure the voices of international students are taken into account.
“[Holding the townhall now will] give us a good time to have your feedback and make sure that we use [student’s money] in a meaningful manner,” Singh said.
He said that the fee will help equip the ISA to better help international students.
“We need money for operations, programs, and services so we are better able to support you all in your journey at the University of Alberta as international students,” Singh said. “We want to make sure that we are able to assist the students when they are in need, and we are not just a connection source, but are actually there to support the students when they need us.”
In the townhall, the ISA said the fee would be broken down in the following way:
- 25 per cent of the fee to services, events, and programs
- 25 per cent of the fee to student support, awards, and funding
- 15 per cent would go to supporting community, diversity, and culture
- 15 per cent allocated to an initiative called “Your ISA” which would include the addition of an International Students’ Hub, and volunteer appreciation programs and honorariums for board members
- 10 per cent to health, wellness, and professional development initiatives
- 10 per cent to outreach, communications, and advocacy
Singh said that students who don’t see the benefit of one or more of these fee initiatives would be able to partially opt-out of the fee, with the understanding that they would then be ineligible for those benefits. Additionally, students would be able to opt-out of the entire fee by filling out a form on the ISA’s website.
“There’s a lot of flexibility for you to decide,” Singh said. “[If you want to opt out] that’s fair … you can always change your mind and opt in again.”
ISA execs highlight fee’s potential benefits
The ISA executive spoke about several different aspects the fee would support, including an International Students’ benefit card, a Community Support Fund for internationally focused events to promote diversity and community, and monthly alumni networking nights.
After the general presentation, Singh invited the ISA executive to speak about the aspects of the fund that they were most excited about.
Jashan Mahal, the external relations officer for the ISA’s fee proposal taskforce, said that they were most excited about the monthly alumni nights.
“I think as international students we’re pretty clueless about the job market,” Mahal said. “We only have a vague idea about what life after graduation is going look like. Having the opportunity to interact with people from other fields, and get a bigger picture of what’s required [to get employment], I think that’s something very, very valuable.”
Mohit Sinha, the ISA’s vice-president (communications), said they are most excited about the community engagement recognition awards and volunteer appreciation program the fee would provide.
“This encourages international students to get engaged in the community, and get rewarded for that participation,” Sinha said.
Madina Usserbayeva, vice-president (internal) for the ISA, said that they were most interested in the creation of an International Students’ Hub, a safe avenue for students to learn more about resources on campus and share their concerns with the ISA.
“When I first arrived [in Canada], my biggest roadblock, was that I felt so different from other people,” Usserbayeva said. “I felt so out of place. The hub could give students a space where they can embrace their cultures and feel safe and included, and be surrounded by people with similar backgrounds and similar roadblocks to eases their transition.”
Singh answers attendee questions
At the end of the event, Singh invited attendees to answer survey questions, the results of which the ISA has since published. Singh also opened the floor to audience questions.
One question asked why international students need specific awards and emergency funding through the ISA when the Students’ Union has similar funds and awards that are also available to international students.
Singh said that there is currently only one dedicated award for international students through the Students’ Union.
“The awards that the ISA is targeting would be a way to give back to the international student community,” Singh said. “We think there’s great value in having awards and appreciating the leaders within our community for the work that they do … and that is why we feel that there’s a need for more dedicated awards. But this is open for discussion.”
One question asked how the proposed $6 fee was determined.
Singh said the number came from previously gathered feedback about what services international students would like to see the ISA produce.
“We then created a proposal and assessed what running these services would actually cost,” Singh said. “If you feel it needs to be less, feel free to let us know.”
Though there wasn’t time to get to all the questions, Singh said the ISA would spend time answering them and send out the answers to all event attendees. He highlighted that there will also be more opportunities in the future for students to voice their opinions on the fee.
“As your elected representatives, we are accountable to you,” he said. “We have a monthly council meeting for all international students to attend. Every international student has a speaking right in that council meeting, and that’s a great place for you to let us know what you think.”