University of Wisconsin Academic Staff Assembly Document #318
Madison May 12, 2003
Submitted by Representative F. Simon Anderson
The following resolution aims at providing support by the UW-Madison Academic Staff for the opposition voiced by international students toward the discriminatory imposition of a 'surveillance' fee ONLY on the foreign students being tracked. This tracking is occurring under a federally-mandated, but unfunded, Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) tracking system. The UW educational institution is based on a nondiscriminatory, inclusive, system of governance and cost recovery procedures, and the imposition of this fee on a minority group, with supposed benefits to the entire community, contradicts this. Opposition to this method of cost recovery has been voiced by many foreign student groups on campus, and many UW-Madison departments. We believe that the UW-Madison Academic Staff Assembly should go on record to protest this discriminatory fee imposition, and in support of the foreign students and foreign exchange scholars who provide many significant contributions to the university.
Resolution in support of the protest by international students against the discriminatory imposition of a surveillance fee on foreign students and foreign exchange visitors.
Whereas, The UW-Madison has a commitment to diversity, non-discrimination and equality;
Whereas, The federally-mandated Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) mandates tracking of all foreign students and exchange scholars by the University System, but is not being funded by the federal government;
Whereas, The SEVIS system is not provided as a service to the foreign students, but as a service to ALL living in the US under the Homeland Security legislation; and
Whereas, It is recognized that the UW-Madison needs to fund the continuing costs of the SEVIS system. Therefore, be it
RESOLVED that the Academic Staff Assembly of the University of Wisconsin-Madison urges the University administration to reconsider its proposed fee imposition on international students in favor of a more equitable means of funding the federally mandated, but unfunded, Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.
SEVIS: fee imposition background and activities
SEVIS, Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a new electronic tracking system mandated by the Federal Government, but not funded by that same institution. The main purpose of the system is monitoring foreign students and foreign exchange visitors for the purpose of homeland security. Its purported goal of "helping stop terrorism" is designed to be of benefit to all US residents. Yet the UW administration has just announced (April 2003) that a fee of $50 per semester ($25 for summer) will be imposed on foreign students at the UW, and ONLY on foreign students; a discriminatory fee imposition imposed without consultation with the UW student body, the Academic Staff Assembly or the Faculty Senate, and especially without discussion with foreign student groups on campus.
Protests on this fee imposition have been voiced in the Madison newspapers; "Making foreign students pay for tracking unfair, unwise," an editorial piece in The Capital Times, Tuesday 22 April, 2003. It has been protested to the UW administration by many foreign student associations on campus; Africa without Borders Org., African Students Assoc., Armenian Students Assoc., Brazilian Assoc., Caribbean Assoc of Madison, Chinese Students and Scholars Assoc., etc.; 22 organizations as of 4/26/03. Many UW departments have also voiced opposition, including Accounting, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Astronomy, Economics, Forestry, etc.; 17 departments as of 4/26/03.
And a flurry of emails have been generated to try to gather support, protesting the surveillance fee imposition, on the grounds of discrimination, undermining the UW's commitment to diversity, violation of shared governance policies requiring participatory meetings on such fee impositions, and basically as being a fee imposed on a minority group for supposed services to that minority group, as compared to handicap access where all pay for such a service, but only a few need the service, and other shared-cost services provided by the UW to minority groups.
The UW administration has taken the attitude that the fee imposition could not be reviewed because it is "administratively complicated to change it." It is being termed a "service" to foreign students, for which they alone must pay. That the data gathering is deemed a "service" to foreign students ONLY is being disputed, and that the fee should be shouldered ONLY by the foreign students is also under question. The method of implementation, by automatic inclusion as part if the tuition bill sent to each foreign student, means that there is not a sensible way for them to protest the fee imposition once it has happened. It engenders fear of not being able to continue studies at the UW with the possibility of withheld transcripts, and precludes sensible debate and protest at that stage!
Reevaluation of the method of funding the continued operation of the SEVIS system needs to be debated, options examined, and a fair and equitable financial structure put in place.