The Ithaca College Student Government Association has announced plans to add a new international senator position beginning in the 2012-13 academic year in an effort to expand international student representation.
The position amends Article 4, Section 2 of the SGA Constitution to require the body to add the position. The motion creating the position was approved Oct. 5. The vote was unanimous.
Junior Rob Flaherty, vice president of communications for SGA, said he hopes the new senator position will provide adequate representation for international students who may feel out of place adapting to the college’s culture.
“I’ve heard from international students that it’s alienating,” Flaherty said. “In a campus of 6,000 people, you should not feel that way. The genesis of this is that we want SGA to be able to represent those people who aren’t necessarily represented right now by our student senate.”
There are about 200 students from 55 countries enrolled at the college, according to the college’s Office of International Programs’ website
An international senator would share the same responsibilities as the other senators. The senator will be required host at least one event per semester for his or her constituents, as approved by the vice president of campus affairs, according to Article 4, Section 4 of the SGA constitution.
Sophomore senator Courtney Brown said she introduced the idea to create a senatorial position for international students after the class of 2015 elections in September.
“We were listening to all the platforms at the student government meetings, and one of the girls said that she’d be a good senator because she was an international student,” Brown said. “She had a different perspective that she could bring to the senate. I started thinking, ‘Well, why don’t we have someone that can bring that perspective if we already don’t have it?’”
Freshman international student Jo Lou ran for one of the class senate seats in September with the intention of adding an international presence to SGA. Lou did not win the race and said she still thinks SGA is lacking in international student representation.
“Honestly, I really like the school, but I felt like there were a lot of changes that needed to be made,” Lou said. “There are no international people on the board of senate, and as far as I know, have ever been on the senate. There are not a lot of international students, so we get overlooked a lot. There’s no one speaking for us because there’s not that many of us.”
After hearing Lou’s campaign platform, Brown and Flaherty began to draft an amendment to the SGA Constitution. Brown said she began researching and gathering information about the position by looking at other universities who have a similar position, such as Tulane University. The senate then held a discussion and voted on the proposal.
During the amendment process, one concern raised was that if SGA added the position, it would move toward a social government based on different interests such as gender and ethnicity, rather than an academic government organized by student class standing.
Despite this concern, the amendment passed without dissent.
“Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, that is not what this is about,” Flaherty said. “This is about trying to represent people that we may not represent.”
Freshman Isuru Somasinghe, a student from Sri Lanka studying the U.S. for the first time, said he supports SGA’s decision to add the position. He said it’s a necessary step to expanding international representation.
“The senate should add more international students,” Somasinghe said. “They should provide more incentives to the international students to get in there. They should include us more and address our different cultures and try to integrate it into the American way of life through the college.”
Voting for the international student senator position will take place Sept. 12, and voting access will be restricted to the international students studying at the college.
Flaherty said the international senator position is similar to the transfer senator position created in 2008.
“It’s right in line with what we’ve been doing before,” Flaherty said. “Whether or not it makes us a social institution, I don’t think that’s relevant. What’s relevant is that SGA is working to represent students from all different walks of life, cultures and backgrounds.”