ISO opens conversation on residential space

By ABIGAIL CHANG

EMMANUEL TAMRAT
Members of the International Student Organization (ISO) draw new members at the Student Activities Fair last month. ISO is in the process of establishing a residential space associated with their organization.

As the housing application process kicks off, the International Student Organization (ISO) is eying a residential space for international students that would function as a space for intercultural dialogue across the student body. The ISO executive board voted to apply for superblock status for the 2020–2021 school year after presenting its proposal to the SGA senate and the Community Council.

ISO members drafted a house charter and superblock application last week and will present the application to the housing office on March 5. If awarded the house, they will run applications for seven resident spots from March 6 to 20.

The idea of creating an international student house has existed for many years, according to Kelly Zhou ’22, co-president of the ISO. Co-President Arthur Martins ’22 took the lead in organizing a team to work on pursuing a residential space. Though they initially wanted to apply for special interest house status, Community Council advised that they apply for a superblock this year due to the short timeframe for approval.

Superblocks are only traditionally open only to juniors and seniors. However, the senate passed a resolution Feb. 23 in support of reevaluating the proposal next winter and supporting ISO in applying for a special interest house in the following school year, which will also be open to sophomores. 

“The house came as this proposal for institutionalizing a space on campus where not only international students could live in or anyone who has interest in international issues could live in, but it could act as a hub for an active engagement with diversity, for promotion of intercultural dialogue,” Martins said.

Martins was clear that the ISO house welcomes all students — not only international students — who want to learn how to participate in cross-cultural discussions. One issue he said ISO members frequently face is students disengaging with the organization because they do not identify as international.

“A joke that we have inside the board is that whenever we’re at activities fairs, it’s so common that students will just immediately shut us down, say, ‘Hey, ok, but I’m not international,’ but we would say, ‘Well, you’re international to us,’” he said.

Martins noted how three or four of the seven ISO executive board members are what he called domestic international students — students who may not be legally defined as international students because they have a U.S. passport or U.S. Permanent Resident status.

ISO intends to extend the benefits of the potential international house to the Middlebury community as a whole. Dan Golstein, a junior exchange student serving as ISO’s first Exchange Student Experience Coordinator, explained that ISO is hoping to host community dinners and other meals and increase the frequency of the current monthly Monday tea, which serves as a space for discussion.

As an exchange student, Golstein will never have the opportunity to live in either an international superblock or special interest house. “It’s not about credit,” he said. “It’s not about saying it was us that did it. It’s about just getting it done because, ultimately, we’re here to represent and to care for and to serve and to protect international students.”