The push for a designated seat in the SGA for international students signals the first of many changes to assist this underrepresented group.
According to Darlene Schmurr-Stewart, dean of international student services, the university serves approximately 760 international students on Troy’s campus, constituting over 10 percent of the student body.
There are 44 senators in the SGA, according to Ryan Cole, a junior political science major from Athens and SGA clerk.
“There should be about three international students in the SGA,” Schmurr-Stewart said. “That representation makes sense to me.”
Although the need for an international voice in the SGA may seem apparent in a representative system, efforts to address this need have been long overdue.
“For a long time we have known that we needed representation for international students in the SGA,” said Cesar Jauregui, a senior broadcast journalism major from Pell City and president of the International Student Cultural Organization.
“Many people have the assumption that Pace Hall is a seat for international students, but it is a resident seat that both international students and domestic students can run for.
“I think it’s shocking that Troy is known as the international university of Alabama but there isn’t a voice in what is supposed to represent the student body,” Jauregui said.
Jauregui said having at least one international student in the SGA would ensure that they would have someone to speak for them any time a bill is pushed to the floor.
According to Jonathan Lockwood, an international relations graduate student from Redding, California, and the SGA senator who sponsors the bill for an international seat, the bill has been met with some opposition from the Senate.
“The previous contention would have been that the international students have the ability to run for any seats in the colleges, residence halls or at-large seats,” Lockwood said.
However, international students are in a disadvantaged position when it comes to campaigning.
“The international students don’t have the knowledge or knowhow to be able to have a fair campaign against the American candidates,” Lockwood said.
Many international students are in exchange programs and are only at Troy for one semester or one year.
International freshmen do not attend the same orientation as American students. Therefore, they don’t have as many opportunities to broaden their network.
Moreover, incoming international students often arrive at Troy later in the semester than American students. After taking care of their paperwork and class registration, many may not have enough time to send in the application for an SGA position or to build up supporters on campus, Jauregui said.
Lockwood said the designated seat for international students serves many purposes.
“Not only can they run and win,” Lockwood said, “but they can also begin interacting more and understanding American democracy better … not so much to spread the ideals of democracy but to understand it for what it is and its benefits and the benefits of bringing cultures of all types together.”
According to Lockwood, the bill was under revision “to make it more academic in nature and thus minimize or eradicate any potential contention.”
The revised bill would clarify that the seat is for the international office, an academic component of the university. International students will run for the position the same way other students do for their respective colleges.
Jauregui said the designated seat would be the first step towards a cultural movement within the international students.
“It is clear to us having one seat in the SGA is not an end-all, be-all thing,” he said. “Some students are not used to the voting system or representation like we have.”
Jauregui said the seat would help some international students value voter participation and create momentum for their involvement.
“Eventually, there would be more competition for the one designated seat,” he said. “And students will be more prepared to run for the at-large seats.”
According to Jauregui, ISCO, in collaboration with Lockwood, decided to propose the seat in the format of a bill, using SGA preliminary procedures to avoid coming across as imposing and to show that they are truly part of the student body.
Next week during the SGA meeting, senators will vote on the revised bill. Schmurr-Stewart said that even if the bill is passed, international influence will not come easily or quickly.
“Whoever gets elected should be engaged in the concerns of international students and be the pathway (of addressing) those concerns,” she said. “The representative student should understand their mission and the need to reach out to American students.”
Schmurr-Stewart also said it was necessary for SGA to refocus its agendas.
As an international student who has served on the SGA, I feel issues on the SGA floor should be tailored to be more relevant to this group of the student body.
The support from a large group of people across campus for an international student seat is a moral encouragement for potential candidates.