The Collegian
Thursday, December 03, 2020

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International students attend zoom sessions to learn about the election

<p>&nbsp;A popular social spot on campus, the Weinstein International Center has added a tent to its courtyard for students to eat outside when it rains and maintain social distance.&nbsp;</p>

 A popular social spot on campus, the Weinstein International Center has added a tent to its courtyard for students to eat outside when it rains and maintain social distance. 

The Office of International Education organized three Zoom sessions for international students on campus and abroad to provide information about the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Political science professors Dan Palazzolo and Stephen Simon and dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies Sandra Peart led Zoom sessions on Oct. 16, 23 and 30, respectively, during which they explored the election and its effects on the United States and abroad, according to the University of Richmond calendar. Palazzolo, Simon and Peart focused on the election's implications for Congress, the courts and leadership, respectively, according to the calendar.

The Zoom sessions were organized and hosted by Martha Merritt, dean of international education, and sophomore Penny Hu. 

Hu suggested the event to Merritt because she was concerned that international students were not involved in campus life, Hu said. Since many international students are studying remotely this semester, and many on-campus events are scheduled at hours inconvenient for students in in non-EST time zones, some international students have felt isolated from both campus and life in the United States, she said.

Hu thought that Zoom sessions regarding the 2020 elections would garner a lot of questions and interest from international students, she said. She thought this because she could remember her astonishment when she moved from China to Minnesota in the middle of the 2016 presidential election, she said. 

Recalling her confusion, Hu said, “In China, we never talk about voting because we don’t vote. The [Chinese] president is just there, so I had no idea what was happening."

This semester's Zoom sessions were intended to clarify any confusion students might have about the U.S. electoral process and the potential outcomes of this year's election, Hu said.

“This is especially important for international students because a lot of the issues involved in this election — such as [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] or racial justice — could affect our staying here,” she said.

Each Zoom session has had approximately 35 attendees, Merritt said. Participants brought thoughtful insights and questions, ranging from whether it would be better to have Supreme Court justices popularly elected to whether the current tensions for U.S. political institutions mean democracy is in danger in the U.S., she said. 

Students also had many questions about the Electoral College, swing states and how the election could affect the global position and foreign relations of the U.S., Merritt said.

Peart was grateful to have the opportunity to share her thoughts and experiences as a Canadian living in the U.S., she said. She was also pleased to discuss the critical role of ethics, rhetoric and policies in the election, she said. 

"I hope Americans will rediscover and recommit to the values of fairness and equity in the future," Peart said. "This would radically alter our conversations about trade and immigration policies. International students have much to bring to this conversation and recommitment."

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Contact news writer Carly Kessler at carly.kessler@richmond.edu.

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