Ömür (20), Roos (20), Saachi (18) and Artem (20) all became members of the Central Student Council (CSR) in September this year. Their job is to promote the interests of student across the entire UvA. How do they feel about the last few months? Has it been hard? Have they already started seeing the results of their work? Last but not least, what do they want to focus on after the Christmas break?
‘It’s true that the work we do for the council is quite demanding’, says Artem (Communication Science) when we talk to him and his three fellow council members about their first few months in the council. ‘I can remember getting home and falling asleep with my clothes on after days of being at the UvA for more than 12 consecutive hours at a time. Despite this, his work for the council clearly gives him a great sense of satisfaction: ‘It’s great to be able to have a positive impact on the university, which is very dear to me.’
‘Although it takes a while to get used to the busy diary of meetings and deadlines’, Saachi adds, ‘I’ve now learned to balance my work for the CSR, the Faculty Student Council for the Faculty of Economics and Business and my studies in the Business Administration programme better.’
What have you all been working on so far?
‘We’ve spent a lot of time discussing sustainability policy’, says Roos, a PPLE student. ‘It’s really satisfying to see our proposals developed into actual policy. However, we are very much dependent on the administrative agenda. Take, for example, the report by the Van Rijn Committee about the funding of higher education. Something like that generates a lot of work when that comes out.’
‘We are working on a large number of different files at the same time’, adds Ömür (Literary & Cultural Analysis). ‘For example, as the chair of the Research and Education Committee, I focus on student mental health, language policy, blended learning and the implementation of Gloria Wekker’s diversity report.
What’s the atmosphere like in the council?
Saachi: Our meetings can be a little bureaucratic sometimes, but I’m generally very happy. Everyone in the CSR is passionate about achieving the changes necessary.
Roos: I’m pleased to say that we’re always able to quickly put any disagreements to one side.
Ömür: I really enjoy working with people from different faculties and backgrounds. You broaden your horizons and learn a lot about how to achieve results as a team.
What were the first meetings with the Executive Board like?
Roos: Substantive matters are always handled as part of high-level discussions. That’s heavy going and you have to be able to willing and able to make compromises too.
Ömür: It’s really important to make sure that you're well prepared. We don’t have many meetings with the Executive Board, because of which we actually have just two hours to turn six weeks’ work into tangible results.
Artem: Fortunately, there’s a lot of mutual respect, which is fantastic. That is a good basis for getting great things done together.
Has your work changed your views on the UvA?
Roos: To be honest, I hadn’t really connected with the UvA before; I study PPLE, which is a very close community in itself. I’ve only really started to get to know and appreciate the UvA since I’ve been a member of the CSR.
Saachi: As a member of a representative advisory body, you realise how much time and energy it takes to achieve change – even when the change you want to push through is just very minor. Luckily, most UvA departments are approachable and flexible and, most importantly, willing to work with the CSR.
Ömür: As you get to know the university better, you also learn how much work goes into making sure that the UvA continues to be one of the best universities in the world.
Artem: I find that I can't even listen to lecturers any more without thinking about the underlying structures that keep the UvA running smoothly. Ha ha!
Knowing what you know now, would you still become a council member?
Saachi: Definitely! It’s a privilege to be able to represent students at the UvA and help ensure they have a better student experience.
Roos: I agree. Although the work can be quite overwhelming initially, I’m very proud and grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to be part of this diverse, smart and capable council.
Artem: I’m inspired by the work I do for the council, which challenges my professional performance on a daily basis. So, to answer your question: I would choose to be a member of the council every year if I had the chance!
What will you be focusing on for the rest of the academic year?
Saachi: I would like to do something about the shortage of affordable student accommodation. Anyone who wants to rent accommodation rather than living at home with their parents should have the opportunity to do this. I would also like to see a bigger range of interdisciplinary courses, so that students benefit from a greater degree of study flexibility. And sustainability too, of course! We really do need to make the UvA more sustainable.
Roos: To me, it’s important to extend diversity policy at the UvA, particularly where socio-economic diversity is concerned. Because even though access to programmes with an enrolment quota is based on the marks you achieve, it’s easier for students to get better marks if they don’t need a part-time job or are able to afford expensive private tutors.
Ömür: Diversity policy is important to me too. We need to make the university more accessible to minorities, ensure that they benefit from equal representation and eliminate microaggression. I also think that it’s important to consider student mental health. I’d like to devote some of my time to the question of blended learning too!
Artem: I’ve really got just one real priority, which is to achieve more student involvement. There’s a trend for students to be less and less involved in important issues that affect their day-to-day lives. I would like to see students becoming involved in the ‘ins and outs’ of the UvA and in student life again.