Letter to the Editor: ISA adviser responds to recent election criticisms

ULM Hawkeye

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Dear Editor,

During election years emotions can run high but it was very distressing to see a letter to the editor accusing the International Student Association (ISA) of unfair voting techniques.   The crux of the argument was, since there are more students from Nepal than any other country, they had an unfair advantage over candidates from other countries. “Kale” Kim, a new student this semester who lost his bid for the top office along with 4 other students, suggested we institute a system like the U.S. Senate so each country would have equal representation.  There are 57 countries represented at ULM, some with only one or two students and others with more than ten.  It would be unfair to have the one student from Qatar, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Niger, etc. given the same number of votes as the 56 students from Nepal.

Ten years ago there was a tradition of no more than one office per country.  This policy works when many students are interested in running for office.  However, some years there were so few students interested in serving that I had to literally berate the organization members to take more responsibility, and anyone who stepped forward was given an office.   That was when the one country, one office rule went by the wayside.  The officers we got were those students willing to take on the responsibilities.  

When students ask me what it means to be an officer of ISA I tell them, “You represent all the students and countries at ULM, but it is whatever the slate of officers do that will decide what the organization will mean.”  An association’s character and activities can either reflect the students or the advisor.  I want the students to manage their activities (Welcome Party, International Food Fair, and Annual Banquet) with my support.   This requires students who have the passion to lead and serve but also who can generate broader student involvement.  

As the advisor to the association for over 15 years I have seen a LOT of elections and this year I was delighted to see we had more candidates that any election in the last 5 years.  The officers elected are from Nepal (4 offices), Nigeria, Kenya, South Korea, and Brazil.  I pledge to reinstate the one country, one office tradition in the future unless another dearth of candidates forces the suspension of that tradition.  However I firmly dispute any accusation that the elections were mismanaged or unfair.

Dr. Mara Loeb

Director, International Student Programs and Services