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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

ASM passes legislation supporting international telecommuters, pass/fail option

In its final meeting of the semester, the Associated Students of Madison (ASM) approved legislation Tuesday night supporting international telecommuters and calling for a Pass/Fail and Satisfactory Disruption/Non-Satisfactory Disruption option for the Fall 2020 semester.

At the last ASM Student Council meeting on Dec. 1, representatives voted to table legislation demanding UW-Madison to reciprocate international student hourly wage telecommuters, who have not been paid for their work this semester after a policy change that affected their job status was not properly communicated. Representatives had tabled the motion so they could spend adequate time making amendments and to ease confusion over the proposal. 

ASM Nominations Board Chair Lennox Owino sponsored the legislation, and during his Open Forum time slot, shared an email from the Dean of Students Christina Olstead where she announced that Chief Human Resources Officer Mark Walters had accepted her request that ASM members be exempt from the university’s decision to terminate telecommuting undergraduate student hourly employees. 

“From what Dean Olstead is mentioning and what Mark Walters mentioned in his correspondence is: they value the work that each international student does on different levels,” Owino said. “They see the work that ASM does to be more important than the work that other international students do.”

In this same email, Olstead indicated that ASM students who telecommute from outside the U.S. to fulfill their roles need to reach out to her personally to be considered and approved for reciprocation for their work. 

“Recently Christina Olstead said in an email that international students will now have to reach out directly to her personally to be cleared on payroll, which is awful,” Open Forum speaker Avra Reddy said. “Once again that is another form of alienation for international students that shouldn’t have to happen. Better policies need to be put in place.”

A Zoom user with the display name “Christina Olstead” was present at the meeting during most of the Open Forum speakers, but left midway through the Open Forum, where most of the 34 students and UW-Madison community members who spoke argued in favor of the telecommuting resolution and criticized the University for their approach towards the reciprocation of international telecommuters. 

Elena Haasl, the District 5 Supervisor on the Dane County Board of Supervisors and a UW-Madison student, spoke in the Open Forum.

“When members of our campus community are being discriminated against, it is our job and an opportunity for us to rise up and stand together,” Haasl said. “Right now what’s happening is international students are quite plainly facing wage theft and they should be compensated for the work that they have done and the work that they keep on doing.”

After the Open Forum, Student Council representatives voted on the legislation — which was then passed unanimously.

Later, ASM representatives introduced new legislation demanding the Provost’s Office to allow students a Pass/Fail and Satisfactory Disruption/Non-Satisfactory Disruption option for Fall 2020 semester grades. 

At the Nov. 17 Student Council meeting, representatives unanimously supported a letter written by the Association of Big Ten Student Body Presidents demanding that their respective universities implement a grading policy that grants students a Pass/Fail and Satisfactory Disruption/Non-Satisfactory Disruption option. 

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This legislation, motivated by the extenuating circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, obstacles associated with online instruction and additional barriers that students from different time zones face with synchronous classes and exams, also includes a call for inclusive final exam times for students who live in different time zones. 

During the Spring 2020 semester, a SD (Satisfactory-Disruption) and UD (Unsatisfactory-Disruption) grade option was available to students due to the sudden shift to all online instruction after the March COVID-19 outbreak. In the spring, a grade of SD satisfied general University General Education, degree/major, certificate and PhD minor requirements, while a grade of UD did not count for any credit. Neither SD or UD grades were included in GPA calculations. 

With no objections, this legislation passed unanimously.

The first ASM Student Council meeting of the Spring 2021 semester will be held on Tues. Jan. 26.

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