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Keeping the voice of the international students

Saturday, January 28, 2006

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Written by Rachna Mutreja

The International Student Organization (ISO) is a student run, non-profit, independent, non-discriminatory, advisory and representative organization comprised of international students at the University of Guelph.

At the last Annual General Meting (AGM) held by the CSA in November 2005, a motion was brought up to remove a by-law which gives the ISO a voting seat on the CSA Board of Directors (CSABOD). Of the 33 seats on the Central Student Association (CSA), the ISO is given just one seat. If this bylaw is brought down, it would be tragic for all students, international and Canadian, at this university and would be a step in the wrong direction. Although the ISO represents a comparatively small group of students, international students are not considered a minority, but instead a marginalized group. Moreover, although the CSA represents all undergraduate students, there are obvious differences present among groups on campus and they all should be given some representation.

It is important that international students continue to be represented on the CSABOD because they are faced with problems which are different from the general student population. The ISO is comprised of international students and serves to represent international students because the ISO is able to understand problems that international students face and hence, find ways to deal with them and make the university and other students aware of these problems and to find solutions for them. Diversity of the CSABOD is crucial, and by removing the one voting seat for the ISO and other groups affected by this motion, there is a threat that issues concerning them will be ignored or repressed. Minority groups such as the ISO will be isolated and marginalized. Losing international student representation will also be a deterrent for prospective international students to apply and/or attend the university.

The ISO Representative to the CSA is an elected member. Each winter, an election is held and the international student community votes for its new Executives and Representatives. A candidate has never been appointed into this position in the history of the ISO contrary to recent speculation at the AGM and school media. Although the CSA allows the ISO to appoint a CSA representative, the ISO itself does go through a regulated election process to carefully choose a representative of international students to be present at the CSA meetings.

The ISO is not simply a social club, an idea that has been suggested recently. Organizing social gatherings for international students is just one of its responsibilities as an effort to bring international students together to share experiences and make the university experience a fun one. The ISO implements plans to make it easier for their members to adjust to life in Canada. Most members come from very different cultures and environments and their academic and social success is threatened by the big differences that exist between Canada and home. The ISO also organizes seminars and information sessions during the semester relating to topics such as immigration, taxation, and working off campus for our members. Beginning in the fall of 2006, the ISO will be offering $500 scholarships to international students who are in need. Also, this money can be used by in course students who are having unforeseen financial difficulties.

The ISO was created to benefit all students with a focus on international students. International students are a large group on campus and they provide lots of revenue for the university. The ISO has important goals and serves a good purpose for the university community. It is a recently created organization but has achieved a lot in the last couple years and continues to create new initiatives and implements new ideas and efforts to benefit international students and attract more international students to the welcoming community in Guelph. The next CSA AGM is set for January 30th and the ISO hopes that with the support of all students, the ISO will not lose its seat on the CSA BOD.

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