The 24 co-sponsors of a resolution to expand financial aid for international undergraduates addressed concerns about the legislation, and two of the co-sponsors introduced a bill for a related task force at Monday’s Senate.
The resolution calls for the creation of an emergency fund to aid international students and the eventual inclusion of international undergraduates in the Rice Investment.
“[The] administration has been frustrated that our language comes off as seeming that we want this implemented tomorrow, and we try to address that here,” McMurtry College senator Joyce Chen said. “We hope that [the resolution] reflects our expectation that it will not be resolved tomorrow.”
The proposed task force would work with the administration to implement the resolution if it passes, according to the task force legislation.
“We don’t want the resolution to stay words on a page, we want to create action out of it, and we did not want to take until second semester,” task force co-sponsor and Baker College senator Eli Mensing said. “Some students are facing the very real possibility of not coming back to Rice. We at least wanted to see if there was anything we could do while we were still at Rice.”
Student Association President Ariana Engles said while she understands the resolution sponsors’ arguments for passing the resolution and task force concurrently, she is concerned about the timeline of the legislative process.
“I have some reservations about the task force being introduced consecutively with the resolution, partially because it’s the end of the semester and so it’s really difficult to make sure that everyone is aware, because we all have other things that we’re doing,” Engles, a Lovett College junior, said. “Also, I think I would have preferred to have seen the resolution passed and then have a task force created.”
Sid Richardson senator Will Mundy, who is a co-sponsor of the resolution, said he has constituents who support the emergency fund aspect of the resolution but are concerned about supporting the inclusion of international undergraduates in the Rice Investment before there is research into the cost of doing so. He suggested splitting the two components into separate resolutions.
“In the resolve section, there’s the one recommendation that the emergency fund be made, and then there’s also the recommendation about the increased aid for international students,” Mundy said. “I was wondering why these two are included in the resolution, because I feel that a lot of my constituents that I’ve talked to feel strongly about one of these policies, but the other one they’re not entirely on board.”
Chen said both facets are included in one resolution because they are about one topic affecting one population.
“If we boil this entire legislation down to one thing, it’s that we think there should be equal treatment of domestic and international students,” Chen, a junior, said.
Chen also said the task of conducting research on costs and feasibility should fall to those involved with the Rice Investment.
“My job is not to be here to figure out whether or not it’s possible,” Chen said.
“I believe that it’s possible. If you believe international students should be given the Rice Investment, you should vote yes [on the resolution].”
Duncan College freshman Rodrigo Gonzales-Rojas said he believed some students are worried that potential expansion of international student financial aid may jeopardize aid offered to domestic students through Rice Investment.
“Would the presidents or senators be willing to poll their constituents to specifically ask, ‘Are you okay if this leads to a change in domestic financial aid?’” Gonzaels-Rojas said. “I think that’s a question that’s on a lot of people’s mind, especially mine.”
Maurice Frediere, SA external vice president, said the likelihood that the administration makes a change to domestic aid offered through the Rice Investment is “incredibly low.”
“Rice has made [the Rice Investment] a huge part of our marketing to prospective students,” Frediere said. “The original proposal will stay as it is. If anything this will lead to a separate fundraising campaign, some other reallocation of resources, but it won’t be part of the Rice Investment.”
An ad-hoc committee composed of Chen, Mensing, Rice International Student Association President Chenlin Huang and Duncan College president Greg Van Kirk will write a letter with amendments that will be added to the resolution, according to SA Parliamentarian Nick Jerge.
According to Engles, the ad-hoc committee is an attempt to address some of the questions that were asked at the Senate meeting on Nov. 19, when the resolution was first introduced.
“I do think they did a very good job in being scrupulous about writing this bill,” Engles said. “These are a group of people that are trying to make a statement ... I want to make sure that no matter what this student group does, I really hope that it is incremental, because I want it to be good, and sometimes good change takes a long time.”