“Some students are even too active; not everything is suitable to discuss in the council”

“Some students are even too active; not everything is suitable to discuss in the council”

Proposition: Students and employees are only on councils to boost their CVs

29-03-2023 · Background

In the run-up to the university elections on 8-11 May, Observant will put a proposition before members of staff and students every week. This week: Students and employees are only on councils to boost their CVs.

No, she doesn’t agree with that, says Demi Janssen, student member of the University Council on behalf of KAN. “Of course, such experience looks good on your CV. This could be a motivation to put yourself forward as a candidate, but it should never be the main reason.”

What was her own main reason? “I want to be of value to others. In secondary school, I was a member of the representative advisory council too. I loved being part of the discussions, but I also noticed that by being part of such a council, you can have real influence. At university, I came in contact with members from KAN. They deal with themes that I consider important, such as sustainability and student well-being. I thought: as a council member I could contribute to this.”

For the same reason, Janssen is active in other places, including the media council of the regional broadcasting company L1. Can she imagine that to outsiders it may seem as if she is putting together a nice CV? “Yes, but I’m doing it because it actually gives me a lot of energy and I can add value there. You don't become happy doing something just for your CV. Besides, there are advantages to being on multiple councils: often I have heard problems or questions at other places before. And so I have already thought about possible solutions.”

Do all student council members share this ‘intrinsic motivation’? “I can’t and don’t want to speculate about the intentions of others. But as a University Council member, I have only had positive experiences. If someone was only there for their CV, they would be sitting silently slumped in their chairs. I don’t see that happening. Students ask questions, want to be on committees, submit proposals or come with ideas. We also have a lot of discussions with each other outside the councils.”

Unrealistic plans

There is no lack of motivated students at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS) either, reckons Education Office employee Simon Vogel, who – as an OBP member (administrative and support staff) – has sat on the faculty council for the past eight years. Of course, during that time he has also encountered students who hardly contributed anything or didn’t even bother to turn up. “So, I understand where the proposition is coming from. You suspect that those students are perhaps only doing it for their CVs, but of course there could also be another, personal reason.”

Still, this only concerns a couple of cases, he says. “The input of most of the student members is fantastic. I am often in awe of how well they can express themselves at such a young age. In addition, they are often aware of what is going on, for example, by inquiring with the student representatives, and they stand up for their study programmes. The odd one I even find to be too active; not everything is suitable to discuss in the council,” he says laughing.

For him, the CV is “absolutely no reason” to be on the council. Not to climb higher up the ladders within the university either? “No, I can’t imagine it would make a difference whether you were on a council or not. At the most, if you wanted to make the step from the faculty council to the University Council, but that is not my ambition.” What matters to Vogel, is personal development. “My English has greatly improved the past few years as a result of my council work. It is also a good way to discover what is going on in the faculty and the university.”

But his main reason is to have the voice of the OBP heard. “Student or WP members (academic staff) often have good ideas, but they have to be feasible. I can intervene at an early stage in the council, to prevent time being wasted on unrealistic plans.” That is why he has made himself available for election four times already, in all cases he was always the only candidate on the list. “I don’t mind taking on the task, because it is important that OBP is represented.” Although, this year he is standing down from the elections: someone else has put themselves forward as a candidate. “But if there had been nobody else, I would have had no problem doing it again.”

Not so talkative

Cédric Vanden Berghe, chairperson of DOPE and student council member at the Faculty of Law on behalf of the same party, thinks that it may be difficult to get a place on the council if you are only doing it for your CV. “To get enough votes, you need to convince others of your ideas. So, you have to think about actual proposals and present them enthusiastically. That is not possible without really wanting to change things.”

The fire was ignited in him during the evaluation meetings for the renewed bachelor’s of Dutch Law. “I am from the first batch, we had to deal with quite a few teething problems. But during the evaluations, I didn’t feel that I was being listened to. That is when I thought: I would be taken more serious in the council.”

Still, he also recognises the image of less active student council members. “I was not so talkative during the first few meetings either. This may have come across as being disinterested, but it has to do with still trying to find your way. It feels weird as a student to enter into discussion with the dean, for example. That is something you have to learn.” So, in that way, he reckons, council work does enrich your CV. “It is a valuable experience. You are given insight at a young age into the workings of a large organisation and you learn how to behave professionally.”


Previous parts in this series can be found here:
Part 1 - Proposition: University democracy is doomed to die
Part 2 - Proposition: The work that is done by the councils is not transparent

Picture: Shutterstock

Tags: universityelections2023,cv,university council,faculty council,support staff,academic staff,students,instagram

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