Every year elections open for students to vote for representatives on the General Participation Council. Yet most students are not aware of the elections let alone the council. Aga Babicz sat down with Jamie Teunissen, an Electronic Engineering student and Vice-Chair on behalf of THUAS Students on the General Participation Council to learn more.
What is your role in the General Council?
I am the Vice-Chair of the General Council and the way it works is that we have the Executive Committee of the University Council and we have all the other members. The Executive Committee has also some other things to do besides just sitting there and saying something about the pieces we get, so we talk extra with the Board to establish the agenda for the meetings we have. I am the Vice-Chair and I was elected by all the students in the General Council. The employees select one vice-chair and the students select one vice-chair, so we have 2 vice-chairs and we have the chair that was chosen by all of us - Mendeltje van Keulen. But that is my role, so I talk with the Board from the students’ perspective and what is important to get on the agenda. Furthermore, I also see to it that all the students talk and say what they think. I have to push them a little so that they say everything that is needed, and they do not hold back. Every role in the General Council is important. We also have chairs of the committees, we have 3 committees inside the General Council, and they are also very important, as well as the members. Everything in the General Council is important but I also have some other jobs beside it.
Why did you decide to join the General Council?
First of all, I felt it was very interesting to be in that place, to learn something about the University at that level, how it is managed and how the policies get made. Furthermore, I also saw the things that I wanted to change. Every student has their irritations, they think of things that can be better, such as microwaves in the canteen or too expensive pricing of prints. For me the reason was that I had a very clear vision about the University, so I thought we have to make students happy about certain things and my main concern was communication. How the University communicates with the students is not always that good and also the equalities at the University have to be handled with, so I also worked on that. Furthermore, some things about facilities and that we have to expand how we do prestigious projects at the University and I thought that maybe we can expand that, but I did not have time to do that this year. Also, how we are placed in the student life, how the University is placed in the city we are. We have locations in The Hague and in Delft, I am from the location in Delft, so I was very interested how the University operates in Delft in comparison to The Hague. We also had some things that are not equal between them, so at The University in The Hague we have something what we call lectures from the Lighthouse, but we do not have them in Delft. So, I was wondering if we can get those to Delft and I talked with the Board about that, but it is later in the year. The main reason that I wanted to join the University Council was that I was very interested in that position and what I can learn from that.
Could you comment on the structure of the different councils and how they work together?
Every council has its own responsibilities, which makes them unique. We have the Programme Committees, the Faculty Councils, the University Council and I think that structure is beautiful. If there was only a General Council where everything has to be handled nothing would be personal anymore and, in my opinion, it is not the right way to do it. Every step you go up, so if you go from the Programme Committees to the Faculty Councils, to the General Council everything gets a little bit more abstract. Like I said, it is a nice structure so the Programme Committee does everything at the local level where they care about the students and where they talk the most to the students of the Programme so that they know what is the best for those students and I cannot know that for every programme at our University, so I think the funnel up to the General Council is nice. About how they work together - as the General Council we talk to the chairs of the Faculty Councils regularly. I think that it is very important to do, otherwise we do not have that funnel effect. The problem at the lowest level is going to the upper level and in the General Council we know what to do with it or not. If you are gonna change the policy on one specific case that is not the right way to do it. What I do not see, but I hope that it happens, is that every Faculty Council talks with their Programme Committees as we do with our Faculty Councils. I hope that is happening and then we have a beautiful collaboration with each other.
In your opinion, why is voting important?
First of all, voting is very important to do. If you do it on your local level, at your renting committees, at the University Council, or at the national elections. Voting is very important because it is a consolidation of everyone and what they want. Why is voting important at the University and especially this year it is because this year we have very drastic changes in how we make policy at the moment and what we have to change. Last year all the changes that were made came of the plans that were already made, like the education vision and the University vision, so they thought about it, they were really smart people that read papers, throughout 6 university councils so the main changes in education were thought about. Now we make steps in the corona crisis, there are drastic changes about how we do our testing - do we choose for online portraying or does every programme has to change how they make their exams. Nobody knows what works best at the moment and that is a really big problem, so hearing the students’ voices now is very important. Also, next year because we do not know how the change is going to affect the future and how the corona crisis is going to develop over the year. Voting now for the person that you think is best, and a person whose plans are in your interest, can make a big difference.
How would you encourage students to become candidates in the participation councils?
I think it is all about the intrinsic motivation. If you really have the drive, if you really want to change or encourage the programmes or the University, please go and sit down in the participation councils. But you have to talk, you have to say things, you have to make your point clear, you have to make for yourself a vision of what you want to change or let stay at the University. Every student that is intrinsically motivated to talk with the programmes and with the University Board, make yourself a candidate. It does not take that much of your time, so if you want to make a change, this is the place.
How would you encourage students to vote?
It is not that much of a different answer than the other answer. Right now, is the time to make yourself heard as students. If the student in the council had many votes then you can go to the Board and say: “These are my plans and that’s what the students want.”, then you have those student bodies behind you.
Do you think that students’ voices are being heard by THUAS authorities?
I think they are being heard but like I said about encouraging students to become candidates, you have to be intrinsically motivated and you have to talk. If you do not talk the University does not listen. Every student at the council levels knows what they can do, what they can change, and where they have their influence. You cannot change the whole University, the plans, how they run the courses but if you know where to look, if you know the people you have to talk to and how you have to talk to them, I think you can make a big impact.
By: Aga Babicz, who is a 2nd-year International Communication Management student and Creative Innovation Director at Collective.