Two Ohio State students founded the International Student Council in hopes of providing a voice to students who come from across the world to attend the university. Credit: Lantern file photo

Joanna Linderman and Keasen Hao saw the need for international students to be unified and vocal about their experiences at Ohio State, so the pair decided to take action.

Linderman and Hao founded the International Student Council to promote cultural awareness, integrate domestic and international students, provide resources for internationals, and voice students’ concerns and needs.

Hao, a fourth-year in  information systems and the organization’s president, said the international student fee, which has tripled since 2014, was one of the biggest issues they hoped to address as ISC.

The international fee is paid by international students to support university-wide strategic investments and provide resources for international students, such as predeparture orientation in China, Ben Johnson, an Ohio State spokesman, said in a statement.

In America, if you want something, you have to say it. We just want to let international students know that it is OK to say it and it is not being rude or not respecting what they are doing – Joanna Linderman, ISC operations director

Hao, who also served as an Undergraduate Student Government international student emissary senator, said ISC created a survey which was distributed to multiple international student groups to have statistical support for his resolution to improve the transparency of the tripled international student surcharge.

“We hope to use the survey as a tool to communicate with the administration to back up the resolution so that they know we care and we need resources and feedbacks,” Hao said.

The survey also evaluated how aware  international students were  of the resources on campus and how much they had used the services available, Linderman said.

“Most of our answers from the survey have been either one activity or club they’ve known of or none,”  said Linderman, a third-year in Chinese, who serves as ISC operations director. “So our result, from the survey that is going on, is that the school says they are investing and promoting these international students’ clubs and activities. However, the result is not penetrating international students.”

So far they received 250 responses, Linderman said, and are expecting more than 400 by the beginning of Spring Semester.

She said the school’s inaction in protecting international students’ rights are another issue they hope to address, pointing to the incident at Scott Lab last month as an example.

On Nov. 2, students found multiple notes printed in Chinese with threatening and insulting messages spread over several computer seats at Room E257 in Scott Lab, according to witness Daniel Yu, a fourth-year in mechanical engineering, who found the notes.

Yu said several Chinese student organizations had filed a report with the Bias Assessment and Response Team, known as BART, but said the school has not done a lot to prevent things like this from happening again.

“It proves that [ISC] is necessary to help international students to protect their rights and promote diversity around campus because there’s no such student group working for all international students and speak to the administrators like us,” Hao added.

“We are not trying to say that the school did nothing,” Hao said. “ [ISC is] just trying to make it better and encourage internationals to get involved and speak for themselves.”

Hao said ISC members also hope to represent all international communities on campus with representatives from different student organizations at Ohio State. ISC currently has members involved in the Chinese Student and Scholar Society, the Undergraduate Chinese Student Organization, the Korean International Student Organization, the Latino Student Association, the African Youth League and the Japanese Student Organization.

He said IFC is planning to add more seats on the council for other organizations and domestic student representatives, as well.

Asian cultural norms of being subordinate and polite might prevent international students from speaking up about their needs and asking for resources, Hao said, adding international students might need to adapt the American mentality of being more vocal.

“In America, if you want something, you have to say it,” Linderman added. “We just want to let international students know that it is OK to say it and it is not being rude or not respecting what they are doing.”

Hao said ISC is building social media platforms on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform, Facebook and Instagram to make the organization more accessible to international students.

“The school had done a good job in bringing people from all around the world but the most difficult part is that when you go to a different country you don’t trust anyone even when they seem trustworthy,” Linderman said. “So ISC wants to create a ‘friendly face’ so that students come to OSU can feel like they have a community already existed there for them and run by students like them.”