A lack of volunteers and coordination has added complications to the international student airport pick-up service that the University of New Brunswick Fredericton’s Student Union volunteered to organize and fund for the second year in a row.
“Shortage of volunteers makes it difficult, but we’re making all of our pick-ups as well as some other international students who weren’t registered,” said Greg Bailey, president of the UNBSU.
The airport pick-up service kept the UNBSU and volunteers busy with some international students arriving in the early morning hours of Aug. 26 and continuing into Aug. 27 as well.
The UNBSU met with further complications when a misunderstanding with UNB Residential Life left two students without a place to stay on Tuesday morning.
“Unfortunately, there have been a few problems because UNB has not coordinated with us at times,” said Nicole Saulnier, vice-president internal of the UNBSU.
“For example, Residential Life was not open until 3 a.m. last night (Aug. 26) when we were promised it would be open for international students arriving late. This meant finding a motel room for two students who had been traveling for 28 hours from China.”
UNB has placed a welcome booth at the airport but Bailey said it is often vacant.
“Occasionally someone will show up. We had somebody come up and pick up a student and their family up this morning while we picked up four other international students,” he said.
“It’s very disorganized.”
The airport pick-up service was one of the International Student Advisor’s Office (ISAO) services cut during reallocating of funding by the administration last year. The UNBSU organized and funded the service last year, but told the administration at the time that they would only fund it for one year.
But when the ISAO once again reached out to the student union, the UNBSU said they felt obligated to step up to the plate again.
“Honestly we couldn’t stand the thought of leaving these students on their own,” Bailey said.
“At the end of the day, if we didn’t do it, no one else was going to,” said Thomas.
This has caused confusion between the UNBSU and the university administration over who was responsible for offering the service.
The UNBSU felt that it should have been the university’s responsibility to fund the program but Shirley Cleave, associate vice-president academic at UNB, said that the airport pick-up service was not initially created as a yearly offer.
“A few years ago when the service was first offered there was some one time funding that was used for that program. That funding wasn’t available last year but this year we increased the operating budget for the ISAO on a go-forward basis by 75,000 dollars,” she said.
“My understanding was the ISAO had worked with the student union last year and so that was a partnership for airport pick-up. The [ISAO] worked with the student union again this year and had some plans in place to continue the partnership, but there seems to be some confusion about whether that’s the best way to do that or not.”
Cleave also said that while the airport pickup service is not something that is advertised as a general offer at the Fredericton campus, it is a promised service on the Saint John campus, which had led to further confusion.
“The International Student’s office in Saint John has offered airport pickup for quite a few years. It’s something that we haven’t routinely offered at the Fredericton campus,” she said. “I think there’s some confusion because both campuses operate differently.”
“We think is a very good model of students welcoming students. We recognize our international students are an important part of our community for all sorts of reasons and that we’re committed to making sure that they have the support systems in place for them to succeed,” Cleave said.
“We do appreciate the work of the student union in welcoming our new students, both our domestic students and our international students.”
Read next week’s issue of The Brunswickan to learn more.