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USSU bylaws preclude international students from executive positions

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María Celeste Nuñez poses for a photo in front of the USSU office on Sept. 7, 2019.

An international student finds that a conflict with the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union bylaws and study permit restrictions mean that international students cannot run for executive positions in the student union. 

María Celeste Nuñez, a fourth-year Ecuadorian student in environmental earth sciences, considered running for the vice-president of student affairs position in the USSU April 2019 elections when she noticed a conflict between the USSU bylaws and Canadian regulations for students on a study permit. 

Executive members of the USSU are required to take a maximum of 6 credit units per term, making them part-time students; as an international student, Nuñez cannot work on- or off-campus without a full-time student status. Nuñez says the USSU bylaws restrict international students’ participation in the union.

“There is definitely a conflict between the immigration situation and the USSU bylaws,” Nuñez said. “They restrain and limit the accessibility of international students to run for executive positions in the USSU.” 

USSU General Manager Caroline Cottrell says the bylaws might not prevent all international students from taking on executive positions, given the variation in immigrant status. Nonetheless, all U of S international students on a study permit need to keep full-time student status to work on- or off-campus, the exception being students with permanent residency who are not considered international students at the university. 

The union’s bylaws were created by the students themselves, and all executive positions are full-time paid jobs. Cottrell says changing the bylaws to allow for international full-time students to hold the position would potentially result in executive members with less time for their work responsibilities. 

“Part of the issue is that all executive members are also employees of the USSU and they are paid a full-time salary. So the expectation from the students is that they are doing a full-time job and they get some time, built into their contract, so that they can go to school,” Cottrell said. 

Nuñez believes that the workload would be manageable for full-time students. In past years, Nuñez has maintained a full-time student status while holding executive positions in the Environmental Studies Students’ Association and the Latin American Students’ Association, as well as her current job as a student assistant at the International Student and Study Abroad Centre.

“I am aware that the position is a full-time job, and a time demanding one, however, I believe that taking three classes — which is the minimum requirement to maintain a full time status —  is manageable. Challenging, maybe, but not impossible,” Nuñez said.

The next step would be for Nuñez to ask for a change in the bylaws. She is not currently planning to put forward a resolution at a weekly University Students’ Council meeting to petition a special general meeting in which to change the bylaws in time for the upcoming October by-elections. Instead, she is waiting for the annual general meeting in November.

Cottrell explains that in order to have the bylaws revised in November, the proposed amendments must be sent to her 20 days before the annual general meeting. 

“Once I have all the amendments, they go to our lawyers and they determine whether or not this follows the spirit and intent of the USSU and fits with the non-profit corporation act,” Cottrell said. 

Nuñez plans to create a proposal ahead of the general meeting and gather the support of other international students she has worked with in the hope that they can call attention to the issue and find a feasible solution. 

“My intention is not to specifically change the bylaws so I can run, but so we can provide more access to any international student that wants to run for these positions,” Nuñez said.

Nathalie Baquerizo

Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor

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