The ISA forum reveals the two strongest VPA candidates a day before voting begins

At the International Student’s Association forum, the platforms of Milan Regmi and Rowan Morris prove to be the strongest while Pedro Almeida’s falls short on breadth of advocacy approaches.

I had minimal expectations for the three vice-president Academic (VPA) candidates at the International Student’s Association forum (ISA). But, I was pleasantly surprised with the advocacy speeches of two candidates — Milan Regmi and Rowan Morris. 

In a brief opening statement, Morris said, “I want to begin my speech by clearly and specifically stating that international students deserve better — you need better.” 

Rather than beat around the bush with his goals, Morris was clear and direct with his approaches. Specifically, he spoke about expanding scholarship eligibility for international students and fighting for ISA’s seat on the General Faculties Council (GFC) — to which Morris remarked that there is “no excuse for the ISA not having proper representation” to date. 

Compared to previous forums, with Morris proposing lofty goals without clearly explaining his plans, this was a refreshing take on advocacy that spoke directly to the needs of international students.

Candidate Milan Regmi also flexed his breadth of advocacy knowledge, having already run for VPA during the last election, and proposing well-developed solutions to current academic issues. His speeches were far more action-oriented than in previous forums, which allowed the main tenets of his platform to shine. In his opening statement, Regmi spoke about the international student experiences his dad went through to highlight current student advocacy.

“Sadly, we are seeing the tuition of students skyrocket, resulting in higher tuition for international students today than my dad had in 1996. You should not be worse off today in 2023 than your parents or grandparents were in getting an education,” Regmi said.

Like Morris, he advocated for pushing the ISA to be represented on GFC, and to work with international students on eliminating barriers like the cap on international working hours. Another appealing idea was his proposal of working with Residence Associations to help create cohorts for international students. He explained this would help them adjust to new academic systems, and ways of living in Canada. 

I was impressed with Regmi’s proposals, not only because they are achievable, but also because they show a genuine understanding of the concerns that international students have expressed. 

All in all, Morris’ and Regmi’s emphasis on collecting information through consultation with student groups like the ISA shows an approach to advocacy that students need.

While these two candidates spoke well just as voting is about to begin, one candidate fell short of the mark. Pedro Almeida, although a seemingly polished political personality, could not advocate for the international student struggle to the same extent as his opponents.  

In a repetition of previous speeches, Almeida stated, “one of the main points of my platform is the creation of an online advising hub that doesn’t only have information about academics, but also mental health support.” 

On the day before voting begins, Almeida chose to recycle the same speaking point he has used in both the Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ) and Myer Horowitz forums. In all honestly, this forum was a missed opportunity for Almeida to speak to the lived experiences of international students by thoughtfully promoting other key elements of his platform.

If elected, would Alemida be able to advocate for students beyond providing a website? Through the way that he has presented his platform, I’m not convinced his rationale prepares him to be the VPA that students need moving forward — which is one that is willing to advocate for nuanced issues that don’t always have generalizable solutions. 

In contrast, candidates Regmi and Morris have proven that they understand the struggles of international students, and know the next best steps towards getting students what they need.

As voting ensues, student voters should keep in mind the campaigns that each VPA candidate has put forward. Importantly, they should critically evaluate who they see as the best future advocate for their academic experience. Which essentially boils down to who they see as truly listening to and fighting for the issues that they face. To me, this is Regmi and Morris.

Megan Posyluzny

Megan was the 2022-23 Deputy Opinion Editor. She is in her fourth year studying psychology, anthropology, and volunteering with community service learning. Currently, she is a non-profit board intern with Skills Society. When she’s not learning about human behaviour, she enjoys foodie-related adventures, dabbling in mixology, and watercolour painting.

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