ISOW housing problem may be long term
The usual weekly activities are still taking place in the ISOW building, but no more than 39 people are allowed to be inside at one time. "I think some students are confused. They think ISOW is gone, but this is not the case," says Mishra. The limit on numbers does mean that sometimes people are turned away from events. "Because of this I think the members are losing interest." Mishra reassures however that ISOW is still alive and kicking. The committee hopes to have a new location by the end of the year. "We have to be out of the old building before January, and at the moment we are negotiating with Ceres student fraternity and the university."
According to Mishra the university presented ISOW with two options. The first was to merge with the International Club, but Mishra rejects this option as ISOW would then lose its separate identity. The second option is to rent a part of the Ceres building, and the university has agreed to pay the rent. "This is just a short-term solution," says Mishra. "In two or three years I foresee the same problem arising, and the university admits that it's a problem. It can't ignore the fact that ISOW is the biggest student organisation in town." Spokesman for the University Executive Board, Simon Vink, says that nothing is yet definitive and that the university is considering other locations as well as Ceres. "I have told Arun Mishra that we will find a solution. Ceres is interesting, but there are other options as well: we mustn't put all our eggs in one basket. What is clear at the moment is that ISOW needs an interim solution, which could for instance be in the WSO building."
Housing is not the only problem faced by ISOW. At present only three members of both ISOW and ISP (International Student Panel) receive financial compensation from the university for their work, although this is due to increase next year. Mishra: "This is not good enough. We have twenty members." ISOW will also be registered with the Chamber of Commerce this week. "The university indicated that ISOW should become a legal club. They want us to become independent, but I'm not sure if that's a good idea. I get the feeling that the university wants to get rid of ISOW." According to Paul Deneer, director of Student Affairs, this is not the case. "The university has been active on behalf of the international students on a number of fronts this year, and intends to pursue this policy in the coming years. It is of great importance to us that the international students feel at home here."
Mishra is afraid that the university is trying to treat ISOW in the same way as Dutch student organisations. "Our situation is different because most international students are here only for a few years. My view is that the university is an international institution and it should be aware of its responsibility towards supporting the social life of the international students." | L.M.