BoG rep candidate is clearly dedicated to international students

BoG rep candidate Stephen Raitz shows he can deliver active advocacy for international students at the ISA forum.

The International Students’ Association forum started off rocky for the Board of Governors’ Representative (BoG rep) candidate, Stephen Raitz, who was nowhere to be seen. Raitz walked in late, and explained he had a mandatory class he couldn’t miss. Once he did arrive, his performance made up for it. 

Raitz opened his speech with a specific goal in mind: addressing international students directly. He did not waffle around, and got to the point. His platform, he stated, contains “practical, tangible ways to support international students.”

Raitz was significantly more serious today, perhaps thrown off by his tardiness. However, this was a good opportunity for him to seriously address matters on his platform, which he successfully capitalized on. International students’ issues are unique and require a serious attitude, and Raitz delivered.

He spoke of removing “onerous requirements” for international students, specifically in terms of tuition, such as having to pay a full semester’s fee for spring and summer courses. This is a significant hindrance for students who cannot afford the entire chunk of tuition at once, or those who have mental health issues and would prefer not to take on the burden of five courses. 

Raitz also spoke about practical ways to support international students in order to be able to build support with board members. He highlighted the need to change the current tuition model, which is very focused on domestic students, with more emphasis placed on domestic tuition issues. He also emphasized the importance of committing to voting against future increases in tuition and mobilizing students. 

Many international students are concerned about being advocated for and having their voices heard. When asked about this, Raitz talked about two types of advocacy — conveying students’ issues directly with individual stories, and a data-driven approach. To Raitz, data is more effective with the BoG.

“If they can see that they can raise tuition but still see international students come here, they’re not going to be as persuaded by stories if they have data to indicate otherwise,” he said.

He continued by bringing up a very important point — with the caps on domestic tuition increases, the administration is going to look to other sources that are deregulated aspects of tuition, like international students’ tuition.

The fact that Raitz is aware of this shows that he is prepared to support international students to the BoG, and that he has the knowledge to advocate effectively. It makes me hopeful that further impacts on international students won’t be so dire, especially with Raitz on the BoG.

Raitz also brought up his greatest edge in this race: engagement. He talked about how the best thing a BoG rep can do is mobilize and yell so they can be heard. Students feel the impacts of tuition increases every day, Raitz said.

He’s right — the BoG isn’t fully aware of the short and long-term impacts of tuition increases on students. We need someone, like Raitz, to go to the BoG and make a lot of noise about the issues that are impacting us.

Raitz emphasized that the scope for advocacy in this position is very narrow, and there are not many opportunities to do all that is needed. But, he acknowledged that while he may not be an international student, he is dedicated to understanding their issues.

Raitz knows he doesn’t understand first-hand, but still makes an effort to represent international students by actively communicating with them. For a long time, international students have felt underrepresented or ignored when it came to advocacy. It seems like Raitz is dedicated to amplifying their voices and concerns.

Raitz explains the impacts to the community when students that contribute so much to the community are not able to stay long-term because they rack up so much debt. International students pay exorbitant fees to study in Canada — they deserve to stay here, even when they stop paying so much to the U of A. 

Overall, Raitz has greatly improved since the first forum at Campus Saint-Jean. He has done a good job of balancing fun with an earnest desire to advocate for students.

Hiba Zaidi

Hiba is contributing to the Opinion coverage of the 2023 UASU Elections. She is a second-year student studying economics and political science. When Hiba isn’t in Rutherford library frantically completing assignments, she can be found in an unspecified corner crocheting or reading Jane Austen novels.

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