March 13, 2013

LETTER: Supporting the International Student Center

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To the Editor:

Re: “EDITORIAL: Questioning the Need for an International Student Center,” Opinion, March 12

I am writing with regards to the important resolution passed by the Student Assembly last month calling for the administration to establish an International Student Center on campus. As described, this center would be a physical space connected to the International Students and Scholars Office where the more than 4000 international students at Cornell can access resources as well as gather with international organizations in a supportive space. One of the main goals of the center would be to centralize all the current international resources offered on campus in a way that increases efficiency and use of these resources. Furthermore, it is important to stress that this would not be just “one more center.” A lot of the resources the center will offer are already being provided by the University — what’s important however, is to improve them and bring them effectively together under one roof.

It is critical to remember that although essential for the well-being of international students, this project is still in its early stages. In fact, the resolution calls for members of the administration to establish a task force of student representatives, representatives from the Office of the Dean of Students and staff from the ISSO to closely examine and gather information regarding the scope and details surrounding the future center.

The establishment of an International Student Center is aligned with the University’s mission to internationalize Cornell pursuant to President David Skorton’s white paper, “Bringing Cornell to the World and the World to Cornell.” S.A. members and committees, as well as the international students involved in drafting the resolution, agreed that an International Student Center would not only fulfill a very pressing need for current students but also make Cornell a more attractive place for prospective students seeking a strong and supported international community at their university. When talking about unfilled needs pertaining to international students, I do not only talk about a necessary expansion of the currently available resources, but also about the addition of a physical space where international students can meet and start the process of uniting and building the currently disconnected international community.

In fact, one of the biggest issues affecting the international student community at Cornell is a fragmentation that inhibits us from efficiently voicing out the issues affecting us. I am of the opinion that international students at our University should not be overlooked just because they are less vocal than other groups on campus.

Critics who believe the center will increase segregation of the international community from the Cornell community are mistaken; none of the currently available centers are thought to marginalize other groups — they simply sustain them. The centralization of resources for international students would not only increase efficiency but also offer a conducive environment for dialogue between American and International students. An important part of this center would also be its ability to showcase the diverse cultures and nationalities represented at Cornell, and serve as a platform for dialogue surrounding shared identities or other issues such as histories of marginalization that necessitate shared communal space for dialogue.

More needs to be done in support of international students, both by improving the situation of currently enrolled students and by increasing the efforts to bring more international students from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented countries. The University cannot expect international alumni, or any alumni for that matter, to be happy about the current situation. Needless to say, it is vital that these issues become a priority for the administration.

Enrico Bonatti ’14, international representative at-large for the Student Assembly