On the basis of its Student Life Policy, TU/e started looking for a solution to the patchwork of unattached student organizations that are sometimes overburdened with tasks. From that perspective, FISO board advisor Christiaan Goossens was asked by ESA to look for the common denominator between Compass, Lighthouse, Cosmos, AEGEE-Eindhoven, Ichthus, HOST, SA Salaam, Navigators Network, TINT, Enter the Now and the Vegan Student Association. Together with the working group, he found it in the theme of ‘identity’: “all of the organizations represent a part of the identity of a specific target group. Three topics that are found in almost all of these organizations are ‘inclusivity, internationalization and student welfare’.” Goossens wants to get rid of the image of being a residual umbrella organization. After all, the term ‘residual umbrella’ does not accurately reflect the organizations that fall under it. “We’ve been pushed further apart over the past few years, but now, we want to start organizing activities together again, and we also no longer want to be put on the ‘leftover’ field during the Intro.”
“At the start of the project, there was some concern among people at TU/e that there would be clashes of convictions. However, from what we see now, the collaboration is actually working very well”, says Goossens. “Having an umbrella organization as a contact point is a great advantage for the individual associations. This way, they don’t have to go looking for information themselves, about the Intro, for instance. And if they have input, for example about student welfare, that input will be given a more significant place on the agenda.”
Nicole Ummelen, Vice-President of the Executive Board, is pleased with the structure of the umbrella organizations for associations: “We’re very happy with the large and diverse range of associations on and around the TU/e. They are the lifeblood of the Eindhoven student scene and contribute strongly to the students’ development. To be able to act more effectively and to be optimally connected to the community, it’s a good thing that most of the associations have already joined forces through umbrella organizations. We’re pleased that this group of associations has now also decided to team up under FISO. We wish the board every success and look forward to the cooperation.”
Goossens: “It almost never happens that we establish an umbrella organization from scratch. Traditionally, most organizations start out as discussion groups that acquire a more formal status over a period of decades”, explains the former ESSF Chairman. He has experience in setting up and structuring student organizations and in that capacity, ESA appointed him as temporary board advisor for FISO. “The first board consists of Ezra Leeuwenhage (Ichthus member), Miriam Pouwels (Ichthus member) and Tiara Avé (Navigators Network member). The aim is to have four people on the board next year, so they are now actively looking for people to rise to the challenge.
“My main goal in establishing this organization was to reduce the number of exceptions, as Credo (former umbrella organization for religious associations, Ed.) and the individual associations themselves used to have a lot of those. It’s better to have an unambiguous policy; this creates more connection. I’ve also reinstated the umbrella meetings (‘Umbrella Assembly’, Ed.) involving all the umbrella organizations and student factions. This way, everyone gets to see what the others are working on. I’ve received positive reactions to this.”
No funding for religious associations
The money for FISO comes from the Executive Board. Within FISO, the umbrella board evaluates which associations are eligible for an administrative grant or other financial and material support. Still, there has been some tension regarding finances in the past, as religious associations were not considered eligible for financial support. “TU/e is a secular university and is therefore reluctant to offer any particular support for religious associations”, Goossens says. Cursor reported on the situation at the time and the commotion even prompted questions in Parliament. The administrative advisor thinks that this selection by TU/e is a bad thing: “When a student joins the university, they have a certain background. The university should not make any judgments about this by granting or withholding subsidies. All associations that focus on identity development should be treated equally.”
Other than that, FISO is very satisfied with the current level of support provided by TU/e, says Goossens. “We feel warmly welcomed within the university community.” The umbrella organization is still looking for board members to take over as of September. Anyone who is interested can apply by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org