Editorial: SGA creates new senator, vote yes

Journal Editorial Board

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It has taken much too long for the creation of an international student senator on the Student Government Association (SGA), but now that it has passed the SGA, it is up to UIS students to decide if this will become a reality.

Over a year ago, Zachary Sullivan, former transfer senator on the SGA, introduced a resolution to create an international student senator.  In the first SGA meeting of this semester, this resolution barely passed in a two-thirds majority vote.  Needing eight votes to pass, this resolution received nine “yes” votes, four “no” votes, and one abstaining vote.

In our opinion, this resolution should have passed with 100 percent SGA support a long time ago.

Although it is no easy task to make changes to legislation with full support, it is still shocking to know how much this resolution has struggled to pass as it seems like such an obvious decision to make.

An international student has different needs than the larger part of the population at UIS whether it is language barriers or culture shock.  Therefore, having direct representation in the SGA for a growing demographic on campus is both progressive and savvy for both UIS and the student government.

In January, some of the SGA members expressed concerns about creating an international student senator position. The concerns seem illogical, if not ridiculous.

The first concern: current senators are responsible for all the needs of their constituents, whether the student is international or not.

If this is the case, then there are many current senator positions that are not needed as many of the senate seats overlap in student representation.  A student can be a freshman transfer student in the College of Business and Management, and would therefore be represented specifically by the freshmen, undergraduate, transfer, and the business and management senators.

But these senator positions still have a specific purpose. The transfer student senator, for example, serves students coming into UIS from other colleges, and the seat is held specifically by a transfer student because he or she can serve the specific students with greater accuracy.  The same would go for an international student senator.

The second concern: other demographics of students will demand specific representation.

An international student isn’t just one ethnicity.  It is ethnicities from all around the world that call UIS home, and these students share common problems.  These issues are likely to become a greater concern because the UIS international student population is growing rapidly.

In a census from the fall of 2012 semester, almost 250 students were considered international.  That’s twice the number of students the Peoria Campus senator represents, which is currently vacant.

Therefore, the international student senator would not only represent a number of culturally diverse students, but also represent a demographic of students who have separate issues and concerns than the rest of the UIS student population.

The third concern: international students are more than welcome to run for any of the SGA positions, so there is no point in making a position specifically for that student.

Although international students are more than welcome to run for SGA, historically, not many have held seats in the student government.

Cynthia Thompson became the SGA adviser in 2001, and it wasn’t until the 2007 fiscal year an international student got elected into the student government, and in this case two were elected.  Uttra Singh was elected into the secretary position and Vishal Ojha became the senator for public affairs and administration.

Since then, at least four more international students have held seats on the SGA including Ying Liu who currently serves as the graduate student senator.

Although there have been international students on the SGA, there still isn’t a guarantee that an international student will be represented on the SGA.  In the past decade alone, there have only been four years with an international student in the SGA.  Therefore, we encourage UIS students to support the creation of an international student senator in the 2013 spring referendum.