Peaceful demonstration for more study spaces and education in person

Student of Biomedical Engineering Timme ter Horst was one of the students who went out to demonstrate on Saturday at 18 Septemberplein. He and four of his fellow Audumla dispuut members held their own mini-demonstration; they were not part of Sunday's riots. “Of course, we deplore the riot, but we do feel there should be more done for students.”

photo Siem Nozza

It felt like the time to take action; so thought Ter Horst together with Teun Christiaansen, Jeroen van Dijk, Niels Elders and Dirk van Loon. “We thought that something on this small scale, just the five of us, would be okay,” but within fifteen minutes the young men were told to leave the area by special investigating officers (BOA's) charged with maintaining public order. The reason? They had not gained permission for their demonstration from the municipality of Eindhoven. Still, those fifteen minutes gave them the chance to speak to people, including the Night Mayor Siem Nozza. “Everyone was positive and Nozza said he supported us and wishes to be involved as we move forward.”

Not vulnerable enough

“The biggest problem we have is that education is online,” says Ter Horst. “There is almost nothing on the campus. The situation varies, too, from program to program; a fellow dispuut member studying Automotive had nearly all his exams on the campus, but others did all theirs online. We don't think all the options have been explored when it comes to offering stuff on campus. MetaForum is now open as a place to study, but only for vulnerable students. We get that not everything can be open, but it means that if you aren't classed as a ‘vulnerable student’, you've no longer got easy access to a good place to study.”

As to how more use can be made of what the campus has to offer, Ter Horst has plenty of ideas. “Lectures that are presented live online are sometimes recorded in a lecture theater. We could let a limited number of people go and watch, so that those who really need to can still attend. Or the interviews that you have with your mentor could be held once in a while at the uni. Things like this would also keep students feeling part of TU/e. Three of us are first-year students. Their experience of campus life, of being part of the uni, is virtually nil.”

Executive has no overview

The need for more study spaces had already arisen as an issue in the city; Adem Topdag of the DENK political party raised questions on this topic in December 2020. These have now been answered. Is the executive aware of the scarcity of study spaces, within degree programs themselves and/or public spaces such as the library?” asked Topdag of the municipal executive and other bodies. “We have received no signs from education since the first lockdown that there is any scarcity of study spaces,” responded the executive. “When young people have insufficient facilities at their disposal to follow remote learning, they can report this to their school/program and a solution will be sought. Schools are responsible and the municipality has close contact with education in order that, where problems arise, it can help find a solution.” The municipal executive can give no clear overview of the number of study spaces compared to the number of students.

Raise the alarm

In a response, Topdag says that it comes down to this: “as soon as schools or student associations raise the alarm, the municipal executive is prepared to look for possibilities. And so far this has not happened. To date, it seems the complaints have been made mostly by students.” There are already external parties, including Lab1 and the Eindhoven Library, who are keen to help find a solution for the shortages. Still, the municipality says that the responsibility for the provision lies in the first instance with the education institution itself. "Parties like Fontys and TU/e are responsible for the provision of educational facilities and premises."

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