International students need more than empathy from VPOF candidates

International deserve support from their SU, but only one VPOF candidate has concrete plans to accomplish this.

The vice-president (operations and finance) (VPOF) candidates Fateh Arslan and Levi Flaman both care about supporting international students, but only one has specified their plan to do so in this year’s race.

“I am not an international student. But that doesn’t mean I can’t sympathize and empathize with the situation that international students face while they are here,” Flaman said in his opening statement.

There is nothing wrong with this sentiment. But sentiment is not enough to ensure that the Students’ Union (SU) advocates for marginalized student groups.

Flaman claims to understand what the needs of international students are through his experience as an international business major and volunteering at the International Service Centre. But, he did not mention what exactly these needs are.

Arslan used his opening statement to assert that if he is elected, international students will not be “nickle and dimed” by the university, as they have been previously. This means that their costs have added up as they have been charged for every small service.

To combat this, Arslan specifically plans to expand the Campus Food Bank (CFB). He wants to ensure that their services run smoothly because they are in such high demand, particularly from international students, he said. These are concrete plans, and clearly indicate Arslan’s plan to specifically advocate for international students, if elected.

This was not the approach taken by the other candidate, Flaman. He claimed that if elected he will not be “picking favourites and not be doing anything for any specific demographic.” Instead, he will work on making services and products on campus more affordable for everybody.

Advocating for international students is not picking favourites, and it’s concerning Flaman thinks this way. It’s ensuring students that face unique and significant challenges are supported by their SU.

Another topic that came up at the forum was the creation of an ISA office. Flaman mentioned the difficulties of getting this office in the Telus Centre near the International Students’ Services office, but also said that this task would take a lot of work on the part of the vice-president (student life) (VPSL). Arslan, contrarily, said that he would work closely with the VPSL to make this happen. At least one candidate plans to collaborate on this project, rather than dismissing it based on difficulty.

Arslan also mentioned discussions he’s had with SU managers about expanding the Peer Support Centre so international students can access it.

Arslan also claimed that “the CFB problem is not financial. . . it is operational.” In reality, it is both.

The CFB has stated their need for increased funding, which will help them keep up with increased demand. But, without a specific plan to do this, nothing is likely to improve.

Arslan has advocated for the needs of international students in his platform through the expansion services like the CFB. Flaman considers it as an afterthought.

Every forum ends with the same conclusion. Arslan cares about using SU funds for projects that will support students, while Flaman says that the finances must come first.

Of course we need our VPOF to meet their basic financial management duties. However, it simply does not make sense to vote for a candidate that does not prioritize advocacy.

Katie O'Connor

Katie O’Connor is the 2023-2024 Managing Editor at The Gateway. She previously served as the 2022-23 Deputy Arts & Culture Editor. She is in her fourth year studying English and art history. Katie attends every concert that she can, and spends most of her free time traveling, writing, or reading with a cat on her lap.

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