While international students may pay the most to attend the University of Wisconsin, they are often relegated to the margins when it comes to addressing their most pressing concerns, especially amid the pandemic.
As such, in the search for a new director to lead International Student Services, a true understanding of the obstacles international students face on campus and as telecommuting students is essential in accurately representing and voicing their concerns.
Currently, ISS is led by interim Director Samantha McCabe, preceded by Roopa Rawjee, and is in the process of hiring a new director — with McCabe and Coordinator of the King-Morgridge Scholars Program Jason Jonely the two sole candidates. Each candidate participated in an unrecorded virtual interview session on April 16 with 15 international students along with staff and faculty from other campus departments including ISS and the International Division.
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While questions focused on many topics from the foreign culture exposure of the candidates to engaging alumni, questions about Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding were not covered, which is troubling given the university’s initial reluctance to compensate international telecommuting undergraduates with student hourly positions, and the complications with using government funding to pay international students.
Though UW did change this policy and ultimately paid telecommuting student hourly workers, the lack of advocacy and support for international students during this financially difficult time — and with no reductions in fees or tuition — highlights the need for ISS to step up and listen to what the students they are expected to represent are saying.
Especially when other schools have fought to provide federal emergency relief to international undergraduate students, UW and ISS have repeatedly chosen not to do so, a move that impacts nearly 3,000 international undergraduate students.
If ISS leadership perhaps had a greater, closer understanding of international students’ struggles, emergency relief funding could have been an option for students and compensation would not have been an issue. Instead, student leaders had to step in to support students, when administrators who have the power to enact administrative-level changes did not.
Associated Students of Madison should not have to spearhead this work when it is clearly the responsibility and frankly, the inability of ISS to support international students and those telecommuting from abroad.
The lack of advocacy on behalf of ISS is not only problematic, but should be a primary issue when searching for a new director. Simply possessing strong leadership qualities or the experience of traveling abroad does not equate to cultural competency or a personal understanding of the day-to-day issues of an international student — especially one telecommuting amid a pandemic.
The Badger Herald Editorial Board calls on ISS to consider its international students when selecting a new director to ensure this group is heard, seen and supported without question.
The Badger Herald Editorial Board serves to represent the voice of the editorial department, distinct from the newsroom and does not necessarily reflect the views of each staff member.