Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020 was a big day for Mount Allison students, who saw a collective agreement reached between the University faculty and the University administration. I have to say I was very relieved this disruption only lasted five days. The way this strike was dealt with and the lack of clarity for many students were less than desirable, but I think all of us are glad we are back in classes and back in a routine.
Despite Mount Allison students going back to classes, international students have been left with a bitter taste in their mouths. Compensation of $200 was given to all students, seen as an “equitable” way to say “sorry” to students.
Well, I am sorry to inform you, but this is a load of lies.
This is not equitable at all for international students, who pay double the tuition fees of Canadian students. Storm Gibbons, who is a second-year psychology major, believes “There has been a lack of support and disregard for international students from the MASU and Mt. A and this is disheartening.”
It has been calculated that international students got around 26 per cent of the money they lost during strike action. Canadian students got a whopping 66 per cent of the money they lost, which is a catastrophic difference in the amount of compensation. Is this really equitable? Think about it this way. If you had a cake that you needed to divide between sets of people, you are giving almost the entire cake to Canadian students and giving the crumbs to the international students.
It is an utter slap in the face to international students. International students deserve higher inconvenience compensation. Natalia Liste Colomina, a fourth-year sociology major, feels “It is deeply disappointing to see how in the past month international students have had to fight to be heard by the student union. International students are tired of constantly having to explain our status and place within this institution.”
The student group Students 4 MAFA had to help us to get our voices heard because our voices are muted in this institution. A group of international students, including me, had to voice these concerns to the MASU. Mary Mulugeta, a second-year psychology and biology major, feels the “lack of representation for international students has made the issues far more aggressive because we had students who are not internationals decide decisions for us.” While we were saying all of the things that we were not happy about, the mouths of the MASU representatives dropped to the floor.
Our list of concerns included the low amount of compensation international students were receiving, the lack of an international student voice within this university and a clear divide in cohesiveness between international and Canadian students. International students do exist, and there are people behind those flags hanging in Jennings Dining Hall. It is not just a decoration to make Mount Allison look like they are so welcoming or another empty gesture to Canadian multiculturalism.
There are voices behind each of those flags!
There is a bigger institutional problem with this University and its relation to international students, and I have seen it myself for six months. I respect the individuals who are part of MASU and do their best to represent students’ voices. Still, I do not believe they are doing enough for internationals. The student union should be representing all student voices, not just those of Canadians. An international centre is not enough and putting flags up in Jennings is a pathetic excuse for actually caring about us.
What international students want is for the administration and MASU to consider their opinions and give them a better voice on this campus. Giving one or two positions on the MASU to international students is not enough and is quite frankly disrespectful to us. You are telling me that one or two individuals can represent 43 countries outside of Canada? I think not. There needs to be more people representing international students within the MASU or, more broadly, Mt. A. If not, this global voice will grow stronger and more ferocious than ever before.
More international representation within the MASU is needed and this not just from me, Storm, Natalia or Mary, but this is from everyone from an international background.
Someone has to say what is on everyone else’s minds and that this issue is sticking out like a sore thumb.