Confusion and frustration over global learning email

Tensions are rising, it seems, between a group of international students and the Global Learning Office.

On the afternoon of February 4, an email was sent out to international students detailing the regulations of their student visa. The subject was this: The time spent at a stipend position is included in the 20-hour-a-week-limit for international students.

There is contention between some international students and the Global Learning Office over whether this was either a notification of, or a change in, Concordia’s interpretation of the federal law regarding the 20-hour work limit for students on an F-1 student visa.

Matthew Beatty, Director of Global Learning, said this policy was not a change at all, but instead a routine reminder “to help advise and follow the F-1 visa regulations.”

Numerous international students said this policy was either not correctly communicated to them or a sudden switch in policy. Many students that work both an hourly job and a stipend position say they have been stuck between giving up hours at campus pay, or resigning from their stipend position which plays significantly less at an hourly rate.

The terms of a student visa mean international students can work either on campus or at an off-campus job directly related to their area of study.

International students on campus make up a large portion of the student workforce. They are in virtually every building working both service jobs and fulfilling leadership or mentorship roles. Concordia’s Student Government Association’s executive team is completely made up of international students.

“(Campus) would collapse without international students,” said Eunice Kayitare, Vice President of SGA. “Already we can see in The Maize being sometimes closed because they don’t have workers and the only workers that go there are international students.”

She and other members of the governing body set up a petition, which included a Google Docs link containing the words of the email, about a week after receiving the message.

“The petition was actually for us to see how many international students are aware of the situation, and who sees it as discriminatory action,” said Amina Fatkhulloeva, President of SGA. So far, the petition has 327 virtual “signatures.”

Eunice Kayitare, Avash Shrestha, Amina Fatkullhoeva, Yuden Dorji and Susham Bhujel, SGA’s executive team. | Concordia SGA website

Fatkhulloeva said the international students are giving the Office enough time to explain the confusion, but have been neither timely nor clear in their communication. 

A second email was sent apologizing for the confusion, and once again notifying that “the rules from the Department of Labor and Homeland Security have not changed.”

Both Kayitare and Fatkhulloeva claim to have kept multiple emails that show the Global Learning Office accepted stipend-paid position hours and hourly-paid hours as one and the same.

Hannah Gilsdorf, an international community intern, said the lack of clarity is “infuriating,” and that a lot of her friends’ lives have been disrupted by this notice. 

“(The email) was sent out on a Friday afternoon in the middle of the semester. Staff leaves an hour and a half later, leaving the students with nothing,” said Gilsdorf, citing the timing of the email to be one of the things that frustrated her the most. The email also included the threat of deportation after two weeks if the visa was violated.

Fatkhulloeva said she immediately had to find other workers to take her shifts at the information desk, as her being president of SGA already takes about 10-20 hours a week.

Rabiah Guira, an international student who works in the Korn Krib, said she had planned on applying to be an RA, but reading this email stopped her.

There is a lot of gray area, said Fatkhulloeva, between ICE, the Department of Labor and how Concordia interprets it.

She posted about this scenario in her United World Colleges Alumni Facebook group, where a bunch of respondents told her that their schools’ policies were not like Concordia’s interpretation.

Gilsdorf, curious about surrounding schools’ rules, said she reached out to St. Olaf College, where she believes stipend hours do not count as work hours. She continued that she has heard other international students say other institutions interpret the law differently than Concordia is.

“This message really was intended with the best of spirit to help support and advise students, and I apologize for the confusion it has caused and panic it has perhaps created for both students and supervisors,” said Beatty. “I think part of it is the understanding that we have students in lots of different positions, some that are being in full compliance already and others that may not be.”

Kayitare is worried because she knows that the 20-hour limit rule, with these restrictions described in the email, has been violated frequently on campus by “plenty” of international students.

“We’re being limited by our involvement of campus,” said Kayitare. “I don’t want to have to choose between making money and actually building a resume.”

“You put a lot of trust into coming to a whole new country, a whole different school, and they made us believe that ‘we have infrastructure to make sure every problem you might have, we’re gonna help you,’” continued Kayitare. “But I don’t see that.”

1 Comment

  1. I truly appreciate this article! Others may think it is not a big of an issue because it’s only restricting the hours that the international students can work on campus. However, all the stipend positions are leadership roles (e.g. SGA senator, RA, OL, Commissioners, and such) and great hands-on learning experiences like URSCA research. Thus, the main implication of this “reminder” is really not limiting how much the students can make but limiting the leadership opportunities and experiences that the international students can take, which makes it a discriminatory action.

    To make extra living income and to learn from being a leader, I personally took advantage of most of these “stipend” opportunities during my time at Concordia and I really appreciated I was able to do so here. The policy change doesn’t affect me at any level right now, but I just feel very sad for my underclass international students who won’t have equal opportunities for leadership, especially if they are struggling financially.

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