The University boasts one of the most diverse student bodies in the country. We rank eighth nationally in the enrollment of international students, with more than 5,000 enrolled. While this is a remarkable achievement that our University takes pride in, until now, we were among only a few universities in the nation that did not have an international student society to represent its large international population. This year, the Central Student Government has supported an initiative to address this issue driven by international students themselves. Keshav Reddy, with support from CSG and the International Center, has founded the Michigan International Students Society. Even University administration has welcomed MISS and extended support. Although this initiative is something to applaud, it must not be limited in scope.
While it’s commendable that such steps are being taken toward making Ann Arbor a welcome refuge for its thousands of internationals, MISS needs to make sure the entire student body can benefit from cross-cultural integration. CSG has created an ambassadors board consisting of representatives from various national and ethnic organizations on campus to discuss problems facing international students. It intends to help increase funding for study abroad and plans to streamline funding for minority student organizations, among other functions.
MISS is the necessary focal point by which international students are brought together. With it, they can solve the unique issues they face and can more easily increase their prominence on campus by pooling resources and organizing joint cultural events.
University rhetoric tells us that everyone can find a club or organization that suits him or her. While this does emphasize the fact that we’re a diverse student body, it doesn’t do enough to encourage students to leave their comfort zones. The value of our diversity is compromised when minority students from different countries and backgrounds don’t interact with the rest of the student body.
One example of this is the University’s decision to have a different orientation day for international students. Separation doesn’t allow for interaction between students of all backgrounds. The University and societies like MISS need to recognize this and bring the entire student body closer together.
The University’s administration hasn’t shown commitment to this cause. Our lack of an international society in the past and the fact that international students themselves had to undertake the founding of such a society proves this. While it may be easier for administrative and organizational purposes to have a separate international student orientation, such measures by our University do very little to encourage interaction between international and domestic students. Future policies need to ensure that our diversity does not just look good on paper, but also that our students should actually be able to reap the benefits of being among people from more than 120 countries around the world.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article misstated that MISS is a commission of CSG.