During their Sept. 21 meeting, the current Undergraduate Assembly members welcomed eight new freshmen — and one sophomore.
College sophomore Taha Tariq replaced College sophomore Alid Castano after Castano stepped down to focus on other commitments. “[I] wanted to give the opportunity to someone else who would have more time to make an impact,” Castano said. Tariq will replace Castano after receiving the second highest number of votes during the spring elections. He attended a training session with the other new members.
Because all the spring 2014 UA candidates, aside from Castano, currently serve as UA members, if a candidate resigns or is asked to leave, special elections will have to be held to find a replacement.
The UA also discussed international student integration and voted on a contingency funding request from Penn Chinese Theater at Sunday’s meeting.
International Student Integration
UA President and College senior Joyce Kim and Assembly of International Students President and College and Engineering senior Angel Garcia de la Garza presented a discussion paper about international students.
Currently, the UA and AIS are researching what resources are available to international students at Penn compared to those at peer institutions, and aim to implement programs or initiatives to help international students.
The UA and AIS met with Director of International Student and Scholar Services Rudie Altamirano . ISSS provides services and advice to international students about topics ranging from employment to immigration to “culture shock.”
One finding of the research was that peer institutions — such as the other Ivies — have longer international student orientation that is separate from the general new student orientation. These orientations would include events such as getting a cell phone and setting up a bank account without a Social Security number.
Another finding from the research was that the graduation rates for international students are generally lower than the rates for domestic students. In 2008, the graduation rate for international students was 73.9 percent compared with 86.7 percent overall.
When talking about how AIS does help international students adjust to life at Penn, Garcia de la Garza commented that it is “not [the] responsibility of other students to pass the information ... I think it should be the institution [that passes on information],” which was met with agreement from the body.
Garcia de la Garza discussed the lack of an international center for all international students and the lack of training that RAs and GAs receive to help international students adjust to life at Penn. Creating an international center and improving college houses and dorm resources are two of the six recommendations that UA and AIS proposed.
The other recommendations include hiring an advisor as a “single point of reference for international students” for social, educational and other issues, increasing funding for international students, researching the lower graduation rate for internationals and creating a structured three or four day international student orientation.
UA representative and College and Wharton sophomore in the Huntsman program Andrew Gegios suggested looking to the Huntsman program as a model because of its advising and higher international graduation rate.
Penn Chinese theater presented its case to receive funding for a speaker event on Thursday. The event would feature Director Jiang Wen , a Mandarin speaker.
The organization asked for funding to get interpretation devices, which would make the event run smoother and faster than it would with translators. The group did not include the funding for the devices in the original funding application, and would have required $2000 .
Because UA contingency funding is a last resort funding option — something a group can request after appealing to the Student Activities Council and SPECtrum, among other possible sources — the budget committee recommended giving zero dollars to the organization, and the general body voted in agreement.
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