Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
MAASTRICHT. It won’t be a real debate, warns the chair of the University Council, Herman Kingma, right before the doors of the Aula opened on Wednesday 15 May. There are no propositions to debate; instead, two student parties, DOPE and NovUM, will briefly introduce themselves, and “then I will pose some nasty questions”, he smiles.
At 13.00 the Aula is barely half full. A few students float around dressed in blue (the colour of DOPE) and black and green (NovUM), along with staff members who will stand in the upcoming elections (21–24 May) for the University Council and the faculty councils. First up is the introduction of the PhDs, Postdocs and Young Scientists and the Academic Staff Party, showing a short film with the candidate Mark Govers in action on a mountain bike: “Just as cyclists who want to do well have to invest in their equipment, a university that wants to perform has to invest in its employees.”
Next up are DOPE and NovUM. “Apart from the colour, are there any differences between your parties?”, asks Kingma. Jan Hoffmann stresses that NovUM focuses on internationalisation and integration. “There’s still a big gap between Dutch and foreign students.” In addition, NovUM is of course “a green party”. In contrast, DOPE’s first priority is to help students get the best possible education in Maastricht. “And we want professional student representation to be integrated into all faculties.”
What do they think about the growth of UM; the increase in its activities on different campuses around Limburg? Neither party has a problem with this as long as the university maintains its facilities, considers the number of study spaces, and continues to deliver high-quality education. DOPE thinks that more campuses will give students additional opportunities to develop themselves in different fields of research.
An audience member, currently on the hunt for a student room, wants to know what will happen with student housing once more and more students descend on the city. In Heerlen there’s a lot of space for less money, another voice from the audience says. The NovUM delegate points out that for some students, Belgium – a twenty-minute bike ride away – is already the end of the world.
Then there’s the language policy. Kingma: “What’s your position?” Great improvements can be made in this area, according to DOPE’s Joep van Zandvoort: “Our agenda calls for every bachelor’s student to be able to follow a language course for free.” NovUM is in favour of free Dutch courses, like those in Tilburg and Groningen. Hoffmann: “Recent research has shown that it would be good for the Dutch economy if one in five international students stayed on in the Netherlands to work. To that end, knowledge of Dutch is crucial.”
The elections will be held from 21 to 24 May