JILLIAN AUSTIN/BRANDON SUN
Baraa Salama (right), an international student at Brandon University, speaks on his motion recommending Raymond Thomson resign from his position with the Brandon University Students’ Union at BUSU’s semi-annual general meeting on Tuesday. Thomson is seated at the far right of the table.
An international Brandon University student is calling for the resignation of an executive member of the students’ union over a letter to the editor that appeared in the Brandon Sun.
The letter in question was published on Dec. 1, written by Raymond Thomson, vice-president internal with Brandon University Students’ Union.
The letter urges BU to develop a plan to recruit more international students. What is upsetting to some foreign students is the tone of the letter and the wording used.
"Cash-strapped post-secondary institutions have reacted to government fiscal restraint by increasing tuition and fees for students. International students pay much higher tuition and fees than domestic students," states Thomson in the letter.
"The international student market represents an important economic opportunity for Canadian universities to exploit ... Recruitment of international students would have important positive economic and cultural benefits to Brandon University."
Baraa Salama, a BU student from Saudi Arabia, said the letter is "disturbing" for international students.
"(Thomson) looks more at international students as a chance to exploit on that, to make use of them, to raise more tuition fees, to get more so the university will have higher budgets," Salama said, adding Thomson’s words have "ruined" efforts being made to bring down international tuition fees.
Currently, tuition for a full-time international student at BU is roughly twice the amount that a Canadian student pays.
Salama was so offended by the letter that he put forward a motion at the BUSU semi-annual general meeting held Tuesday night, recommending Thomson resign from his position.
"Basically Raymond has gone against his own word. His work as (vice-president internal) is to fight for students’ rights," Salama said. "What he has called for is to exploit students’ rights, so this is why I see him unfit for his work, unfit for his job."
Several students spoke both for and against the motion. But before the motion could be voted on, the meeting lost quorum. That means the issue dies, unless students bring it up at the next meeting or decide to launch a petition.
For an executive member of BUSU to be removed, a petition has to be signed by at least 20 per cent of union members, or 600 students. Salama said he plans to launch an official petition.
Thomson wasn’t available for comment Wednesday, however did take an opportunity to defend himself at Tuesday’s meeting.
"If you look at the broad argument of the article, it’s pretty clear that it’s calling on Brandon University to develop a plan to be competitive in the global market," he said. "I’m proud of the fact we have low international student fees and I would really like the university to develop a comprehensive, international student recruitment plan. That’s really what it’s about."
While Thomson said the article "wasn’t malicious," he admitted that his wording was "regrettable."
"I do apologize for that," Thomson said.
BUSU president Carissa Taylor said the letter written by Thomson shouldn’t have been on behalf of the students’ union.
"It’s something that should have been published by him as an individual," she said. "When you’re speaking on behalf of the students’ union, it’s easy for people to associate that with the stance of our organization, when that actually doesn’t accurately reflect the stance that our organization has taken in regards to international students."
She plans to discuss the issue more with council and will likely develop better policies on interacting with the media.
"It’s made us a little bit more aware in that maybe we should have some people read what we put out there, before we put it out there," Taylor said. "I don’t necessarily know that there was any malicious intent behind it, I think it was just a poor choice of wording that could have been easily corrected."
Taylor said effort needs to be made to have a discussion with those students who were offended.
"I think there needs to be a discussion … I don’t know whether BUSU should be a part of that discussion, or whether it’s more of a personal discussion that should take place between Raymond and the individuals involved," she said.
In a press released issued Wednesday, BUSU extended an apology "to all whom (Thomson’s) article offended. BUSU will continue to fight for a high-quality, fully funded system of post-secondary education that is accessible to all students, both domestic and international."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 6, 2012