How many students can Maastricht handle? This was the subject of the first Sphinx flash debate, a spin-off of the longer Sphinx debates on current topics. The conclusion was that the city needs a council committee chairman for students.
The debate was prompted by a letter sent by the neighbourhood platform Bboost (Boschstaatkwartier Oost) to mayor Onno Hoes, to express complaints about disturbances in the area caused by students (see Observant 7). “I have heard nothing from the city council yet and it has been three weeks since the letter was sent,” said Carol Berghmans, chairman of Bboost during the debate. “Nobody is taking responsibility. Neither the city council, nor the housing association or the university.” Student liaison officer from the local police, Paul Vermin, who has been a contact person for one-and-a-half years, argued for a council committee chairman for students, a proposal that was received enthusiastically by the audience. Protests followed the remark made by panel chairman Govert Derix that the city council had failed to send representatives: at least five council members were present in the hall. Antonie van Lune (Labour member) said that there would soon be a sequel to the council conference on students held in September. Young Christian Democrats chairman Jimmy Bastings stated that his party had submitted a proposal for the city council to communicate in English with students.
The language is important because – those present concluded– the problem lies mainly with the foreign students. “They only stay for six months,” said Berghmans. “When you have just gotten through to them what the rules are, they leave.” He would like clear rules and a card system. “First violation a yellow card, second a red card and third violation you have to leave.”
Kitty Nuyts, council member for the Maastricht Liberal Party (LPM), got so worked up that she grabbed the microphone from panel chairman Derix in order to make her point. “Enforcement is what we need. We can phone all we want, but the police does nothing.” This was contradicted by student liaison officer Paul Vermin. “We have clearly taken measures.”
The debate ended somewhat chaotic, but with resolutions from various parties to sit down together and discuss matters. Now all that is needed is for someone to take the initiative.