Proposed amendments to the students’ union bylaws may allow international students to hold executive positions. However, the students who have been advocating for this change are upset over the reported lack of consultation over the matter.
The issue of international students being unable to join the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union executive has been ongoing since the fall of 2019 when María Celeste Nuñez approached the USSU, asking for the bylaws to be revised. The current laws stipulate that an executive member must take up to two classes per term, precluding international students as they must take a minimum of three courses to work.
She then put forward a motion to address the issue at the USSU Annual General Meeting in November. After a lengthy debate, the motion was struck down. The USSU executives made a commitment to meet with the students and create an alternative amendment ahead of a special general meeting on Feb. 6.
Akingbehin Akinwande, president of the International Student Association, says that the executive’s commitment to helping them was not fulfilled. While the executive is putting forward their own motions on the subject, Akinwande says that they were not drafted in consultation with international students.
“We had just one meeting and even that seemed like a lip-service because they weren’t transparent with us at all. For instance we weren’t allowed to read the lawyer’s statements [ahead of time],” Akinwande said. “I wouldn’t say they delivered on that promise because in as much as they made changes … they didn’t meet our demands.”
The USSU did not respond to the Sheaf’s request for a comment in time for publication.
The executive’s motions for the SGM would make it so international students, and any student taking up to three classes per term, can run for the vice-president positions of the USSU. Along with this change, the vice-president positions will be turned into part-time jobs. The only remaining full-time position will be the president, which will remain inaccessible to international students, among other students with course credit restrictions.
Akinwande says that although the changes are a step in the right direction, he is not satisfied with this compromise.
“The changes are definitely positive and [some] would argue that it’s a huge progress and [that] although we didn’t get what we expected, we should make some compromise and accept this for now. I personally am not happy with it because this shows how disconnected the USSU is from its members,” Akinwande said.
Akinwande, Nuñez and the other international students involved in the AGM motion attempted to put forward another motion of their own for the SGM. Their proposed amendment addressed the president’s position as well as the vice-
However, their proposed amendment was not approved by the USSU lawyers reportedly due to issues with internal consistency. The motion also did not address the fact that if four international students were elected at the same time, the USSU would have to hold by-elections to elect at least one Canadian resident because of provincial non-profit laws.
Akinwande requested to meet with the USSU to discuss why his and Nuñez’s motion was not approved, but no meeting was set with him.
“This for me is very disturbing and makes me question why I am a part of the union,” Akinwande said. “I am only a voice for the thousands of international students who are equal members of this union just as any other student.”
With only the executive’s motions being up for vote at the SGM on Feb. 6, Akinwande is discontent with this seeming end to Nuñez and his efforts in changing the USSU bylaws. Going forward, Akinwande worries about the relationship between the students’ union and their constituents.
“I don’t really trust the USSU anymore,” Akinwande said. “If this amendment passes then that would mean the USSU … would have its way and do things on its own terms without listening, paying attention or consideration to the voices and demands of the students whose money sustains it.”
Undergraduate students can vote on these motions at the USSU SGM on Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. in Arts 241.
Ana Cristina Camacho/ News Editor
Photo: File/ Caitlin Taylor