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Task force provides aid to international student facing financial needs, seeks administrative support

By Anna Ta     1/8/19 10:11pm

The international student financial aid task force is helping one international student remain at Rice by assisting with basic financial needs. 

The task force was passed alongside a resolution calling for the inclusion of international students in the Rice Investment at the final Student Association Senate meeting last semester.

International student financial aid task force

Joyce Chen, the task force’s chair, said the task force used winter break to communicate with two international students in need of aid to remain at Rice for the spring semester. Chen said one of the students refused help, but the task force is assisting the other with meeting basic necessities such as rent.

Chen, the McMurtry College senator, said the Office of Financial Aid referred the task force to the Office of International Student Support. However, Chen said she hopes to collaborate more with the administration to create a tangible long-term plan.

“We’re grateful that administrators are willing to point us in the right directions but disappointed that so far no one has really taken ownership or openly demonstrated significant commitment to working long-term to make financial aid equal for all students,” Chen, a McMurtry College junior and SA senator, said. “On this particular issue, we students can only do so much to advocate, and only administration possesses the ultimate ability to bring changes.”

Chen will chair the task force, along with two members of the SA and two members of the Rice International Student Association.

“Long-term, we plan to reach out and hopefully schedule meetings with administration leaders and come up with a plan and timeline,” Chen said, “Short-term, we want to help the students whose family finances have changed and are facing financial difficulties or at risk of being forced to leave Rice.”

Resolution to support international students

The resolution declaring support for increasing financial accessibility for international students passed with one no vote and one abstention after an hour-long debate over the wording and timeline of the resolution. The resolution included a letter that was written to expand on the motivations behind the resolution.

The resolution was written by Chen and Chenlin Huang, the Rice International Student Association president, and co-sponsored by every college president and senator.

“The number of co-sponsors is unprecedented, but international students feel excluded in an unprecedented way, and it was important to us personally as student leaders that we stand for our values and demonstrate solidarity with them,” Chen said.

Sid Richardson senator Will Mundy said he voted against the resolution partly because of a contentious rift between the voting members and non-voting members that was created after every voting member signed on to be a co-sponsor.

“I was dismayed at the resolution and the way in which it was presented, which led to the silencing of voices and the invalidation of different views and criticisms,” Mundy, a sophomore, said. “This was painful for me to be a part of, as this is not how Senate is supposed to run — we’re supposed to be speaking on behalf of the student body, not against them.”

Mundy said students, including his own college’s New Student Representatives, felt that their opinions on the matter were invalidated by the voting members of the SA.

“Several voting members acted like this kind of unusual behavior was okay because we were selected by the colleges as delegates — acting as though were are essentially free to vote however we want and just report back to the college as we please, as many in Congress might,” Mundy said. “But we’re not in Washington, hundreds of miles away from our home districts; we’re in Farnsworth Pavilion.”

During the SA meeting, there was a vote to accept the recommendation of an ad hoc committee and the addition of a letter with the resolution, a vote to change the word “antithetical” in the letter, a vote to postpone voting on the resolution, a vote to vote and the vote itself.

According to Chen, the letter was written by an ad hoc committee appointed from the resolution sponsors.

“We felt that more nuance was needed beyond the resolution’s formal language, especially since there are so many stakeholders who feel invested in this situation,” Chen said. “In particular, we wanted to stress our support for The Rice Investment and Rice’s gains in accessibility for domestic students while making clear our values.”

The SA approved the recommendation and letter and the word change, but the vote to postpone voting failed. The vote to begin voting passed with 16 affirmatives, four noes and six abstentions.

Eli Mensing, a resolution co-sponsor, said that despite the attempts to delay voting, there is a consensus across the SA that the senate has a responsibility to support international students.

“The question was just how best to go about that,” Mensing, the Baker College senator, said. “I think some voting members just wanted more time to discuss and revise the resolution or determine the absolute best way to support international students.”

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