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ISA receives office space four years after its revitalization

“It's a cornerstone for the sense of belonging and unity we strive to build within our diverse international student body,” ISA vice-president (external) says.

The International Students’ Association (ISA) recently acquired an office space in the TELUS International Centre on North Campus. Prior to this, their office was located in the Students’ Union Building (SUB). Securing a dedicated office space has been a pivotal goal since the ISA revitalized in January 2020, Vice-president (external) Juhaina Nujhat said in a written statement to The Gateway.

However, Nujhat said that the journey to acquiring this space was “far more complex than a mere exchange of emails.” 

According to Nujhat, the ISA had to present a compelling case to both the University of Alberta and the U of A Students’ Union (UASU) justifying their need for the space. This included preparing formal request forms, and outlining the activities the ISA would facilitate in the proposed space through a detailed action plan. 

“Although we didn’t encounter direct opposition, navigating through the necessary administrative procedures was an integral part of our journey, underscoring our commitment to this endeavour,” Nujhat said. 

Nujhat added that the stability of a designated workspace significantly enhances the efficiency of the ISA’s organizational operations. In addition to providing a structured environment for their board and council gatherings, the office heightens the ISA’s visibility on campus, “facilitating smoother community engagement efforts.” 

As well, international students can conveniently interact with ISA executives, because they are able to maintain regular office hours. The provision of a storage facility has also improved the quality of the ISA’s organizational capabilities, Nujhat said. 

“Our team firmly believes that a permanent space is essential in fostering a strong sense of community among international students,” Nujhat said. “This consistent presence on campus is not just a location. It’s a cornerstone for the sense of belonging and unity we strive to build within our diverse international student body.”

UASU sublets office to ISA in TELUS Centre

During the 2023 UASU elections, the ISA told candidates that they had been trying to get an office space for several years, UASU Vice-president (operations and finance) Levi Flaman said in an interview with The Gateway.

However, Flaman said that the UASU was “largely just an advocacy party,” in trying to acquire office space for the ISA outside of SUB.

“At the end of the day, it is the university. If it’s our building — our domain, so to speak — we can essentially snap our fingers and make things happen.”

Advocating for the ISA’s office space was a collective effort on the UASU’s part, undertaken over the past few years. Although the current executive team did not extensively participate in acquiring the office space, Flaman did relay the ISA’s concerns to the university.

However, due to restructuring involved in the U of A’s space consolidation strategic plan, administration could not guarantee a permanent office space. As well, it would be an “administrative headache” to move people around all the time, Flaman said. He also cited that the university had minor concerns to lease an office space to an individual student group.

”This is not the first iteration of the ISA. They’ve come and gone in various forms over the years,” Flaman said. “So, the university was hesitant to grant or lease a space to a student group.”

The UASU then pitched that they could lease the space provided to the ISA.

”Technically, in that office, we are the lease-holder. We’re subletting it to the ISA,” Flaman said.

Approval for space came as a “surprise,” Flaman says

Flaman added that the close proximity of the ISA’s office to the International Service Centre makes it an ideal location for international students to access supports from their representatives.

However, despite it being the largest student association on campus, Flaman said he was surprised to hear that the ISA received an office space. He added that, often, criticism toward the UASU’s inaction stems from people demanding things outside of their jurisdiction. The delay in the UASU acquiring an office for the ISA is an example of this, Flaman said.

“We can’t just will things into existence. The deck is always stacked against us,” Flaman said. “‘Why did it take this long [for the ISA to get an office]?’ That’s the way the system was designed. That we were able to get something at all is a miracle, in and of itself.”

“It’s tough to get a lot of things done in a year. You’re often reliant on the people who came before you, the people who come after you, and other groups on campus.”

Aparajita Rahman

Aparajita Rahman is the 2023-24 Staff Reporter at The Gateway. She is in her second year, studying Psychology and English. She enjoys reading, and getting lost on transit.

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