Petition Closed

Improve institutional support for international students

This petition had 156 supporters

St. Olaf College promotes its dedication to creating a welcoming community and providing support for international students at its school. However, there has been a lack of institutional structure for this goal, and we the current members of the International House and our allies start this petition to bring awareness to this issue. We ask you to sign this petition as a pledge to support a more supportive and inclusive environment on campus. We propose that:

  • The International Student Counselor position be made a work-study award.
  • The International House become a permanent fixture, instead of a temporary project, starting the year after next.

Below are the issues we have been facing:

1) The position of the International Student Life coordinator, who serves as the primary source for the well-being of international students, has been a part-time occupation for the past two years. Kham Vang, who was the latest ISL coordinator, left this job after the first semester in pursuit of another more prospective career. While candidates are being interviewed for next year, the position has been kept empty for most of this school year.

2) The international student counselors, who are the first guiding figures for international students upon their arrival at St. Olaf, work extensively during Week Zero and throughout the rest of the year to help transition first year students, familiarizing them with the American school system and social life. Their work amount is comparable to the position of Junior Counselors (known more casually as JCs). However, while junior counselors are paid $1,500 per year, international student counselors work entirely on a voluntary basis. Yes, that's right: they are NOT paid.

3) The International House, which plays a substantial role in connecting international students across class years and connecting students with sources relevant to their individual needs, be it academic, social or mental, also serves as a crucial middle ground for international and domestic students to come together and bridge the gap between them. Such a project has been essential in ensuring that support for international students is available 24/7; furthermore, it encourages the exchange of cultural and political ideas that may not be as efficient in more academic settings. The International House project should be, and is generally thought to be, a permanent fixture; it's not. This year, our house re-application has been rejected by Residence Life, which means there will be no House at least during the upcoming 2015/16 school year. We want to change the status of the House when we reapply at the end of next year.

All of these incidents serve to indicate that the St. Olaf administration has not made a consistent effort to support the process of integrating the international students into the larger student body. By not providing the support system the students require of them, the administration has greatly diminished the gravity of such support; furthermore, they are showing an overall lack of commitment to creating a truly inclusive student body. It's time for this to change, and we are asking you to support our effort.

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