Vigil for Workers’ Held on Campus

On Wednesday, November 8th members of the Villanova community gathered in solidarity to honor and support workers affected by poor working conditions. The event took place at the Grotto, which holds a shrine to Our Mother of Good Counsel, a place of peace and prayer. The vigil was co-sponsored by Villanovans Against Sweatshops (VAS) and Catholic Student Association (CSA). The speakers encouraged participants to live out the Catholic tradition of honoring and protecting workers. As we stood in solidarity in front of Our Mother of Good Counsel with our candles lit, we remembered abused workers and our own values. The vigil gave us the space to contemplate how we can uphold our values through supporting workers globally with our actions.

The location, co-sponsors, and attendees created a beautiful dynamic that allowed participants to reflect on their lives from multiple different angles. Our Mother of Good Counsel, standing peacefully in the Grotto, serves as a figure of guidance and advice to help worshippers through the difficulties of daily life. She encourages us to reflect upon our daily lives, actions, and the influence we have on others. At the vigil, this reminded participants of the significance of their daily power as consumers over workers across the globe. VAS students spread awareness of the atrocities taking place in sweatshops, most notably the Nike factory in Hansai. CSA students and Father Joseph Murray reminded participants of our Augustinian roots and our principles as a Catholic school. They reminded participants to act in correspondence with these principles.

As an Augustinian university, it is crucial for us to understand the connections between our faith and our daily lives. To bridge this gap, Father Joseph Murray led prayers to bless the workers globally “who are exploited, denied fair wages, and whose families are suffering.” He then discussed the writings of both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict regarding labor rights. Pope Francis describes the workplace as a setting for personal growth—a place where both workers and managers can cultivate a sense of self, grow spiritually, as well as make a decent living. This is all dependent, to some extent, on some element of leisure and self-reflection. It is clear that sweatshops completely violate everything that should comprise a workplace. Bosses abuse workers, force them into horrendous conditions, and pay minimal, unlivable wages. They are stuck in an endless cycle that negates personal growth and prohibits any leisure or rest. Pope Francis also reminded us of the Sabbath, emphasizing that everyone has the right to rest around the world, even God. The act of denying workers of proper rest is sinful by its nature. Finally, Pope Francis argues that to deny workers of a fair wage, and therefore restrict their access to the means of a decent life, is murder. This highlights the intensity of the problem. Denied of rest and fair wages completely depletes the sweatshop workers, creating an agonizing workplace and inhibits the personal growth of workers. Father Joseph Murray also incorporated some of Pope Benedict’s writings on workers’ rights. In Pope Benedict’s writings, he discusses the overall purpose of labor. While labor is crucial to an economy, he argues that humanity is the true source of economic and social life. The sweatshop workers are stripped of their humanity, treated as tools rather than people, thus destroying economic and social life in their homeland and globally. The impact of such evil is undeniable. As an Augustinian university, it is our job to uphold our values and to protect and support these workers who lack a platform of their own with which they can articulate their concerns. Father Joseph Murray beautifully integrated Catholic beliefs and workers’ rights to emphasize the importance of our own role as an Augustinian University in the issues.

Following Father Joseph Murray’s speech, a few students expressed their own ideas regarding the workers’ rights issues and how they relate to their personal faith. Christina Diezler discussed our role as consumers, and the need for us to be more conscious of our purchases. Through purchasing products made under humane conditions, we can respect human dignity and dismantle situations in which labor has become contrary to God’s will. Rabia Koureissi brought an interesting perspective to the Vigil, stating an ideal that originates in Islam: “the only race is the human race” Rabia demonstrated that we are all one, regardless of religion and regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Thus, it is our job to support and protect each other. These students and others reaffirmed many of Father Joseph Murray’s statements, while offering their own personal perspective of the issues through a religious lens.

After the vigil, Christina Diezler, Catholic Student Association member, discussed the importance of the event. She explained, “prayer has the power to transform us to act on behalf of those experiencing injustice.” The vigil was an eye-opening experience where we took time to “reflect on how we can uphold human dignity in our purchasing habits,” Christina noted. It provided us with a time to escape the clutter and noise of our daily life, urging us to shift our perspectives. Through dedicating this time to the global impact of our actions, we could reflect and improve our daily lives to correspond with our religious, spiritual, and humanitarian beliefs. Other students commented on the beauty in the communal aspect of the vigil. The vigil united VAS and CSA students, Father Joseph Murray, and faculty in our individual pursuits of justice. Moreover, many students agreed that the variety of religious perspectives was a beautiful aspect of the vigil and encouraged them to reflect upon the sacredness of human life.

After the vigil, Father Joseph Murray spoke regarding workers’ rights and our role as consumers, students, and members of society in it. He encourages students to challenge the status quo and capture people’s’ imaginations to spread our message of justice. Through challenging the societal norms set by generations before us, we can reimagine the world as we would like it to be. We have the power to reform the system. However, to do so, we must gather the support of our peers and our community. Father Joseph Murray believes that “people’s hearts are touched by stories they can relate to,” and encourages us to show the world the detrimental effects of sweatshops. He explained,

“We need more exposure. We need the narrative. Who are these sweatshop people we’re talking about? What does it mean to live on 45 cents a day? People just don’t understand the reality.”

Our goal should be to educate ourselves and our communities, and to explain the detrimental effects that companies such as Nike create across the globe. Furthermore, he restated the importance of recognizing the deeply-rooted Catholic tradition of respecting workers. He explained, “Catholic bishops have created beautiful documents [about workers’ rights]. We haven’t done a great job of sharing those documents. It’s all there.” We hope that using these documents and our own personal beliefs and faith experience can better communicate our message and liberate exploited workers globally.

The vigil was an incredibly enlightening experience. It brought together groups sharing the same values through different perspectives.The groups that made this event possible hope to hold the vigil annually.

 

“My goal is to assist people in understanding better what is going on and the power they have to affect change.” –Father Joseph Murray

 

Chechnya’s Anti-LGBT Pogrom and Its Global Reverberations

One of the most disturbing and prominent human rights crises to come out of Europe in the past few months has been the anti-LGBT pogrom taking place in Chechnya since April.  Chechnya, a Russian republic, has a long and storied history of human rights abuses; particularly, these abuses often center on members of the LGBT community, for Chechnya is a region known for its ferocious and violent homophobia.

This culture of fear and violence against LGBT people, though, finally came to a head when it was reported in April by Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, that nearly a hundred gay men in Chechnya were rounded up by law enforcement authorities acting under Ramzan Kadyrov.  Human Rights Watch later confirmed these reports, explaining that these men were then taken to secret detention centers where they were beaten, shocked, and brutalized for days, and even weeks, before being returned to their families. However, some victims never returned, as at least one reportedly died as a result of the injuries they sustained. Even those who did return faced further danger at home, as families were pressured to partake in “honor killings” of their gay family members; two additional men reportedly died in this manner.

Not only are these heinous acts of violence against one of Chechnya’s most vulnerable communities horrifying, but what is more disturbing is the response of Kadyrov, who claimed in an interview with HBO that Chechnya does not have “any gays,” and if they did they should be taken away to “purify” Chechen blood.  Such responses by Chechnyan officials, as well as Vladimir Putin’s refusal to address or resolve the crisis, has only made existing in Chechnya even more impossible for LGBT people.

As a result of such inaction, many of the victims of this pogrom have sought asylum in other countries.  Human Rights Campaign, for instance, reported that in May, Lithuania became the first country to offer the persecuted asylum. In June, as The New York Times reports, Canada followed suit, and with the assistance of the nonprofit organization Rainbow Road has helped to usher in nearly two dozen Chechen refugees.

While such asylum is essential to the victims of this anti-gay pogrom, the only way to truly put an end to it is with the action of the international community.  Leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have confronted Putin directly regarding these human rights abuses.  However, President Trump, the leader of what is largely considered the most powerful country in the world, has not once addressed these horrific actions, despite having the opportunity to do so when he met with Putin in July.

Without pressure from the United States and a unified international community, these abuses will only continue and worsen. In fact, they have already, as Canada’s CBC News reported that a similar anti-LGBT pogrom began in Azerbaijan within the last few weeks.  Thus, it seems that this unchecked violence and homophobia in Chechnya has served as a catalyst for violence by other oppressively anti-LGBT regimes, putting LGBT people around the globe at further risk. And if the international community cannot come together now to put an end to it, who knows what heights these appalling abuses will reach.

Yemen Conflict Under UN Investigation for War Crime

One could say that a country’s story is that of its citizens. Yemen’s story, then, is one of civilians caught in the crosshairs: theybear much of the suffering caused by a continuous, angry conflict between the Houthi rebels, who control the capital, and a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, the country to which Yemen’s president escaped.
The collateral damage forced onto the Yemeni people accumulates as the conflict stretches into years. Thousands have died. Famine and malnutrition afflicts millions. A cholera outbreak leaves hospitals overwhelmed. Illegal utilization of airstrikes, landmines, and other weapons creates an atmosphere of violence. Unsurprisingly, millions have little choice but to attempt escape.
It’s no shock, then, that several organizations around the world devoted to human rights have called for international action, especially from the United Nations. Yemenis have themselves become vocal in the campaign for UN involvement as well. The Yemen Times reported that over 100 signatures were included in a document created by unions and organizations that assembled in protest at the United Nations headquarters in Yemen’s capital on September 18. In light of the atrocities committed against millions of Yemeni civilians, the letter pleaded the UN to investigate the Arab coalition’s war crimes.
On Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council announced a resolution to denounce violations of human rights in the country and committed to sending investigators to Yemen by the end of the year. The war crimes examined will include those committed by both the Saudi-led coalition as well as the Houthi rebels.
The UN’s decision comes after two years of blockage and threats to potential supporters by Saudi Arabia. This version of the resolution has been softened and serves as a compromise between several states. Yemen and Saudi Arabia have both accepted the resolution.
Finally, international action in Yemen has been guaranteed. One day, we may dare to hope, Yemen’s story will be one of civilians who live in a country of justice.

Sources:

Monument Lab: “Reflect on history. Imagine the Future. Change the Present.”

Curators Paul M. Farber & Ken Lum spark critical social justice conversations across Philadelphia through their city-wide project and exhibition Monument Lab, which is open from September 16 – November 19. The team implemented multiple “Monument Labs” from Norris Square to Marconi Plaza to inspire viewers to question: “What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?” 20 artists worked to create a total of 10 prototype monuments, and one monument is displayed at each lab. Viewers are not only encouraged to view and discuss the prototype monuments, but also to submit their own ideas for a proper monument for Philadelphia. This project urges the public to discuss the social justice issues arising in our current society. Moreover, it empowers the many marginalized voices in one of the United States’ largest and most diverse cities, Philadelphia.

I had the opportunity to visit Site 03: Logan Square, and explored both the lab itself and the prototype on display. The prototype at Logan Square is a sound-oriented monument by artist Ursula Rucker to represent the voices of Philadelphia. Rucker collaborated with the Chestnut Singers and many Philadelphians to create a sound-piece that would compliment a voice recording o her poem Ode to Philly. The aim of Rucker’s work is to commemorate the city through his own thoughts in a joint effort with the general public. I’d encourage readers to listen to or read Rucker’s poem, as this particular monument can serve as a centerpiece of the project as a whole because it encapsulates the very goal of Monument Lab.

I walked into the lab; a small, approximately six by six shipping container that houses a map of the sites across Philadelphia, general information pamphlets, two informational guides that provide an interactive explanation of the project, and a pile of blank forms intended to enable participants to contribute to the project. The blank form asks participants to design a monument that they think should be displayed. Participants can draw, describe, name, and even determine a location for it in Philadelphia. This platform enables participants to really consider and highlight the issues that they believe deserves greater recognition in Philadelphia.

The prototype monuments and ideas put forth by the community portray a variety of social justice topics prevalent in Philadelphia (and the world) and led me to contemplate the issues that I would like to see highlighted. The current prototypes depict issues such as African American’s historical struggle for freedom, women’s rights, and other various systems of oppression. While it is critical to pay attention to these issues, one group I found to be very misrepresented was the children of color in Philadelphia.

While the Malcolm X Park aims to celebrate the youth of Philadelphia, artists DJ King Britt and Joshua Mays are only doing this for a one-night performance on October 14th. Furthermore, the focus will mainly be on generational legacies and a utopian future. While this is a nice idea, and it may come to life in an entirely different way on October 14th, I think that its current description fails to highlight the real issues at hand for the youth of Philadelphia. I believe that the health and education crisis of Philadelphia’s youth needs the most recognition.

Every week I drive a van of freshmen to tutor children in West Philadelphia through Villanova’s RUIBAL program. Through this program, I have learned a great deal about Philadelphia’s flawed system of healthcare and education for these children, causing them sicknesses and leading them to drop out of school or commit crimes. This healthcare and educational epidemic is drastically negating the children’s ability to succeed, and the government fails to properly explain, control, and fix the issue.

In May 2014, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health published their Community Health Assessment which included a pie chart of the determinants of health and their contribution to premature death. The chart claimed that health and premature death were determined by the following factors: 40% Behavioral Patterns, 15% Social Circumstances, 10% Health Care, 5% Environmental Exposure, and 30% Genetic Disposition. This leads people to view health and premature mortality as mainly determined by one’s genes and most notably their behavioral patterns. This leads the reader to view health and mortality as a function of one’s independent behavior. However, when the paper defines behavioral patterns, it explains how these patterns are largely if not mostly rooted in one’s socioeconomic status. In the fine print, social circumstances, health care, and environmental are completely controlled by socioeconomic status because it determines their environmental exposure, social circumstances, access to health care, and thus, behavioral patterns. Through understanding the fine print, we can see that in reality, health and premature mortality rates are not simply 15% social circumstances, but more accurately 70%. This chart paints a completely false picture of the true factors that lead to health problems and unjustly places the blame on the people rather than the system. This ideology not only affects the public’s view of healthcare, but can lead people to place the blame of crime and lack of education on the “behavior” of Philadelphia’s youth rather than the system itself.

In December 2016, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Community Health Assessment demonstrates the devastating impact of this current healthcare and educational systems on the youth of Philadelphia. Because Philadelphia tends to be very racially separated geographically, the following statistics among racial groups correlate significantly to the differences in education and healthcare among different planning districts. The 2016 Community Health Assessment shows that while only 3.9% of white, non-Hispanic report limited access to healthy foods, 10.7% of black, non-Hispanic children and 12.4% of Hispanic children report limited access. These statistics carry over into poverty rates, as 23.8% of white, non-Hispanic children live in poverty Philadelphia, while 45.9% of black, non-Hispanic children and 34.9% of Asian, non-Hispanic children live in poverty. Furthermore, over 50% of Hispanic children are living in poverty. Asthma rates and Firearm Homicide rates follow similar trends: people of color experience higher rates while White, Non-Hispanic people face much lower rates. These drastic disparities between white children and children of color are not only horrific but also demonstrate the gravity of the situation and need for attention. These children are under the age of 18, and left with no voice and little support.

It is our responsibility to use our voices to empower these marginalized voices and encourage the government and the people of Philadelphia to recognize and support these children. It is crucial to understand that these drastic differences among racial groups is not the fault of each individual group, but a systematic problem that must be confronted. Without stronger healthcare and educational systems, these children will continue to suffer. I believe that Philadelphia’s newest monument should celebrate these silenced children and call attention to the need for better systematic support through the government and greater Philadelphia community.

As students of an Augustinian University, it is our responsibility educate ourselves on these issues and use our education to its fullest capacity to help change this oppressive system. I encourage everyone to take advantage of Monument Lab to better educate themselves on the various social justice issues impacting Philadelphia, think about the issues that you are most concerned about, and contribute your own ideas to the project and society.

 

Right to Work Laws

It is impossible to speak about the American labor movement without mentioning the role of unions. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, unions played a vital role in bettering conditions for all workers. They have been the voice of the working person in America for a century, fighting for equality, better benefits, higher wages, and better working conditions. Americans today currently live in an age of incredibly high income inequality, stagnant wages, and weakened worker protections. The source of these problems is the massive decline in organized labor. According to a New Republic article “What’s Behind the Decline of American Unions,” “In 1980, union membership density stood at 23 percent of the work force; some 40 years later, just over 11 percent of American workers belong to unions. During the same period, wealth inequality in the U.S. continued to accelerate largely on a social class basis.” We can see then that the decline of organized labor has indeed been unfortunate for a number of reasons, contributing to high income inequality and lower wages. One of the driving forces behind this decline is a policy known as a right to work (RTW) law. A right to work law is a policy which prohibits union security agreements in unionized workplaces. Unions already can neither force people to join the union, nor can they force people to pay dues for the union. Right to work laws go further and entitle workers who do not pay for unions to receive union benefits, including the right for the union to take up grievances with employers without compensation from the individual worker.  This policy causes some major problems. Workers in a workplace which is unionized enjoy the benefits of the organization regardless of whether or not they are in the union, or they directly pay for it. According to the Economic Policy Institute: “Strong unions set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow. For example, a high school graduate whose workplace is not unionized but whose industry is 25% unionized is paid 5% more than similar workers in less unionized industries.” We can see then that unions actually raise wages even for non-union workers. This means that if there is an employee is an a workforce which is unionized, but they do not pay dues, then they are in a sense taking advantage of benefits which they are not paying money to get. This also further hamstrings the union’s ability to help employees bargain for better wages as it cuts funding while also mandating that they use funding for which they are not compensated. This obviously leads to lower unionization in states which adopt this policy, with unionization in non-RTW states is two times higher than in RTW states. Wages, similarly, are 3.1% lower in RTW states, which corresponds to an, on average, $1,558 lower wages annually in RTW states. The biggest concern with RTW is that the government is acting on behalf of employers to hamstring unions, thereby violating the right of workers to collectively bargain for better conditions. The RTW fails in every way to help workers, it fails to increase wages, and it fails to better conditions for anyone.

Sources:

http://www.epi.org/publication/right-to-work-states-have-lower-wages/

http://www.epi.org/publication/briefingpapers_bp143/

https://newrepublic.com/article/139078/whats-behind-decline-american-unions

https://aflcio.org/issues/right-work

 

Manus Island Refugees

While Americans wait in anticipation for October 31st, a time of gaudy Halloween decorations, costumes, and candy, the refugees inhabiting Manus Island wait in dread for the spookiest day of the year. On October 31st, the Australian government will be shutting down the Manus Regional Processing Centre, one of Australia’s off-center immigration centers for more than 600 refugees and asylum seekers. Originally established in 2001, this center also acts as a detention center for maritime immigrants who arrived on Australia’s shores without visas. It holds these refugees away from the main island until they can be deported to either Papua New Guinea (PNG) or Nauru, two island nations North of the mainland. The Manus Island Centre in question, actually part of PNG, is under Australia’s jurisdiction. As part of relinquishing its hold on the nation, however, the Australian government will be axing all public services for the refugees including food and medical services, access to clean water, education programs, electricity, and sewage if only to encourage refugees to abandon the place and seek asylum in other places on the island.

The Australian authorities have claimed to provide alternative accommodations in other immigration centers closer to Manus Island’s main city, Lorengau, while refugees continue to seek resettlement in another country. Of course, when the Australian authorities say ‘another country’, they effectively mean any place that isn’t Australia– apparently refugees, actual human lives, are too expensive for Australia to look after in the midst of multiple worldwide humanitarian crises. That being said, although the Manus Regional Processing Center has been moving its inhabitants out little by little, at least 600 refugees, all male, refuse to leave the center. Despite hostile reception from the natives of Manus and conditions that resemble those of a prison more than anything else, the center is the closest thing these people seeking refuge have to a home. Who is to say there will be stability wherever they are transferred to? All inhabitants are required to vacate the center by October 30th, but according to sources, it will be up to the PNG’s government to forcibly remove the refugees. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has criticized Australia for failing to provide proper security for the refugees who choose to stay at the center. Australia is also being criticized for lack of proper planning for the closure of existing public facilities.

Let’s say that Australia did at least provide security, those organizations would still criticize the quality of it, given that current security provided to the refugees is not reliable nor effective. Within the center, refugees not only suffer abuse from the Australian security guards assigned to the base, but also PNG soldiers. There have been multiple cases of PNG soldiers attacking these asylum seekers including a report of a riot within the center, during which one asylum seeker was killed and at least 70 were severely injured.

Another 156 refugees on Manus have also been refused sanctuary at the center. Although Australian authorities are moving them to another facility, the refugees are encouraged to return to their home countries… But doesn’t that defeat the entire purpose of a migration? A person seeking refuge doesn’t have a say whether they get to leave their home country or not. It’s a necessity for them to migrate in order to escape persecution and war in a place that they could once call home. The alternative, at the moment, offered by Australian government is to move to Nauru and wait for possible resettlement in the United States.

For government officials back in Australia, like Immigration Department Secretary Michael Pezzullo, the decision is really a matter of politics. One of the reasons behind Australia’s immigrant center closing down is that, in July 2016, PNG’s Supreme Court ruled the detainment of refugees and asylum seekers as illegal and unconstitutional. To maintain good relations with PNG, Australia is not only closing down the immigration center on Manus Center and the services provided there, but removing all personnel by the last day in October as well; the fact that the center was also once a PNG military base and PNG plans reoccupy the center as a naval base again is simply a straw heavy enough to break the proverbial camel’s back.

Part of the illegality of Australia detaining illegal immigrants stems from PNG government officials thinking the refugees have no right to be trespassing on a military base. But it’s all in good business right? With Australia spending $150-250 million on transferring and supporting the refugees on Manus Island in the year following the center’s closure, all’s well and done in the eyes of government officials. The priority for the Australian government lies more with funds and, for PNG, military equipment, rather than the human lives at stake. These people seeking asylum have been abused by security and law enforcement officers, from both nations, and have survived in camps akin to prisons. The tragedy is that the only alternative to these offenses on human life is to return to an even worse fate in their home countries.

Despite encouragement to return home from many Australian officials, for them, being forced to return home is perhaps the greatest danger and fear of all.

 

International Student Isolation at Villanova

Villanova’s rise in national recognition is undeniable, and this correlates to the rapid increase in interest from students globally. While Villanova maintains an already-established, crucial support systems for these students, these services need to expand and improve along with the growth of the international student program. However, because the program is largely understaffed, this poses a difficult question for the International Students Organization (ISO): How can we best assist international students with integration into the community of international students, the student body overall, and in the classroom, and help them identify and strategize their post-graduation plans? Orientation, student and faculty awareness, and Villanova’s administration are essential to this process. However, the program still needs more support.

Orientation is key for all students’ transition to college. We are pushed out of our comfort zones and forced to immediately situate ourselves at our new school both academically and socially. This significant adjustment is difficult even for local students; for international students, it is even more complex. Before they can begin their Villanova experience, matters such as obtaining social security numbers, driver’s licenses, health insurance, seeking work permission, and visa requirements and regulations (and much more) must be dealt with first. Furthermore, when they do arrive, they are faced with an entirely new education system, social norms, and culture. This convoluted transition requires special attention and care, specifically on the part of the Orientation Counselors (OCs) and Administrative Assistants (AAs). However, Jade Huang, class of 2020 ISO member and orientation AA, notes that OCs and AAs are not educated pre-orientation enough regarding how to best approach, welcome, and support international students throughout orientation. Although she used her own experience to support the incoming international students, she suggests and emphasizes the dire need for a more formal introduction regarding specific support of international students for all OC and AAs.

In addition to improve orientation, Jade and other international students also hope to establish a “buddy-system” for incoming international students to connect with current international students and Global Interdisciplinary Studies (GIS) students. This would provide them with a gateway to ask many of the questions that Villanova’s administration does not or cannot provide sufficient answers for. Furthermore, it would provide them with a smaller network to help minimize pre-arrival anxiety and to lean on when they are here.

Jade and other international students also stress the student body’s lack of awareness and inclusion of international students. Often, international students feel ostracized from the community or worried that they are only defined as an international student, rather than for who they really are. An anonymous international student remarks, “Villanova talks about the importance of diversity and inclusiveness, but we don’t feel it. There’s no platform for us to really feel welcomed or connected.” They are individuals that want to be known and heard. But, how do we encourage the student body to take greater interest in the program? The hope is that cultural events and programs such as GIS can raise awareness of international students and the struggles that they face. Moreover, it starts with us, the students, and our willingness to open our minds and hearts to change our attitudes.

International students have needs that stretch far beyond Orientation and the first few weeks of school, just like any other typical Villanova student. Villanova runs three main offices to support international students: The Center for Access Success and Achievement (CASA), The Office of Intercultural affairs (OIA), The International Students Services Office (ISSO).

The CASA has many responsibilities including but not limited to tutoring, scholarships, academic counseling, life coaching, promoting visibility of international students on campus, and assisting in access academic materials. The CASA website determines that its goal is “to promote self-care, self-actualization, and self-advocacy.”

The OIA essentially functions as a blanket organization, which seeks to promote inclusion for minorities on campus. However, international students comment that they wish the OIA had more separation among different cultures, rather than clumping all international students into one group. For example, a German cultural inclusion event is just as foreign to a Chinese international student as typical Villanova events are.

The ISSO provides assistance in immigration rights & responsibilities and counseling with regard to campus activities as well as academic, social, and personal issues. In addition, the International Students Organization (ISO) is student-run organization that provides a tight-knit community of international students and student-to-student support.

These offices and organizations are crucial to support international students. The staff designated to help international students is very dedicated and as helpful as they can be given their resources; however, these staff members are often spread thin across multiple responsibilities and departments, creating a large gap between the international students and the assistance they really need. For example, Steve McWilliams serves as the Director of International Student Services and Disability Services. This hinders his ability to place his attention fully on international students or fully on students with disabilities. Thus, they cannot sufficiently fulfill all of the needs they claim to address online. For instance, some students said that they were unsure of how to approach teachers who speak English too fast, because their culture at home reproaches students challenging authoritative figures. This is not only the result of culture clash, but a lack of academic support on behalf of Villanova. This added level of anxiety is overwhelming and places international students at a disadvantage. Thus, it is crucial to expand the international student support staff in these offices so that it can fully reach all of the students that need it. This issue is not only prevalent in the international students offices and organizations, but also occurs in other departments such as the Career Center.

The Career Center is fundamental in organizing our plans for internships and post-graduation job searches. While all students must create a resume, learn to navigate career fairs, and apply for jobs, international students have an added level of difficulty: finding companies that will support their ability to remain in the United States after graduation. However, the Career Center does not have a specific sector dedicated to handling these issues, so often international students are left with little to no guidance. The career center does not do any specific outreach to companies for international students, and leaves many of them confused as to which companies are more or less likely to hire them due to their international student status. Furthermore, the Career Center does not take in data specifically on post-graduation placement of international students, which would be useful to both post-graduate and incoming international students. A few international students said that because Villanova provides no formal information on these issues, they learn about this vital information through word of mouth, which leads to rumors and misinformation. They suggested that the Career Center advise students on how to navigate discussion with companies about hiring non-US citizens and exactly which rights they have as non-US citizen applicants. To do this, the Career Center must develop a sector specifically for international students. This would provide international students with the platform to ask questions about navigating the job market (in a country foreign to them, nonetheless) specifically with regard to immigration issues. Improvement of the career center’s international student support is imperative for their ability to succeed in the United States after graduation.

It is clear that the CASA, OIA, ISSO, and ISO try to help international students as much as they can in their transition. But simply put, there is systematically not enough resources for the program to run all of the services it should. Furthermore, the student body and staff must be more educated about the struggles that international students face, in order to better connect during orientation and throughout our time at Villanova. This would not only largely benefit international students, but widen our own perspectives. With these improvements, everyone would have equal opportunity and the resources to succeed at Villanova and in the United States.