By Sarah Watson
International students will soon have increased representation in campus politics starting next semester.
Legislation passed at the University of Iowa Student Government Tuesday meeting will give the green light for an international constituency senator, the first of its kind on UISG.
Currently there are seven constituency senators representing historically marginalized communities: Asian, Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, Native American, disability, and veteran constituencies.
The new position will represent international students by advocating for international student concerns when creating and voting on UISG proposals, as well as engage in regular outreach.
They will also work as a liaison for the International Student Advisory Board.
The board, started by UISG in 2014, is a committee of eight students that works to bridge the gap between domestic and international students and to improve international students’ experiences at the university.
Board Chair Marie Synofzick said she thinks the new senator will bring awareness to international-student services as well as create more effective legislation to support students.
In 2016, approximately 10.3 percent of the undergraduate student population were international students from 63 countries, according to demographics on the International Student & Scholar Services website. That percentage has increased steadily, with the exception of the last two years, since 2006, when just 1.8 percent of undergraduates were international students.
“The entire world is in Iowa City,” legislation sponsor and Asian constituency Sen. Sanjeev Thangarajah said. “That added diversity of viewpoints they will be bringing will help UISG reach another milestone.”
Shuhui Lin, the coordinator for International Student Support and Engagement, said the new senator would give the substantial percentage of international students an extra voice in campus decision-making.
“There are always a few international students on UISG … but representation is not to the same level if you look in comparison to percentage of student population — it’s just not the same,” Lin said.
Although international students can still work with their corresponding ethnic constituency senators, Apoorva Raikwar, the UISG director of diversity and inclusion and current liaison between UISG and the International Advisory Board, said the additional senator will be able to address distinctive concerns of international students that current constituency senators may not be able to.
“International students face unique challenges that have not always been at the forefront of UISG advocacy efforts, so [an international constituency senator] will help with that,” Raikwar said.
UISG’s legislation lists unique challenges as acclimation to campus, integrating into student life, academic adjustment, and access to scholarships and services.
Since UISG began formulating the idea in November 2016, discussions surrounding differences in challenges for international and domestic students. An Asian Discussion Circle hosted by Thangarajah this fall reinforced those concerns.
“The Asian community is really big, and international issues are very different from domestic issues,” Thangarajah said. “I will be able to use what was said regarding international student issues, and I was able to give real student results and input rather than just me discussing my experiences.”
The new international constituency senator will be elected during UISG elections in spring of 2018.