Wages for work
A year ago, I was elected for the University Council. I was on the list of Groep-één and received one of the nine student seats. In the past year, I have tried to do my job as the 'controlling power' as good as possible. I enjoyed it very much and we achieved some great things last year. But besides the work as the ‘controlling power’, you have a lot of other tasks as student member of the U-council.
A short lesson in TU/e: the University Council is the last body to be consulted before the Executive Board makes a decision. With these decisions you can think about where the extra two million euros from the government for student wellbeing will go to, or the new form of the Bachelor College, or that the number of credits for a positive BSA should be reduced. Whether the sandwiches in the canteens of Atlas should become cheaper, or whether the first year of the Biomedical Engineering study should be designed differently are matters that are dealt with at a different level.
Let's look at the example of the extra money for student welfare. At TU/e, there is a lot of staff that deals with making policies, text describing how and for what reasons a certain sum of money goes to a certain purpose/goal. The members of the University Council are presented with that policy and have to look critically at whether the argumentation in the policy document is correct.
As a student member of Groep-één or of DAS, and in the coming year also of newcomer ONS, you naturally look extremely critically at whether the plans are also going to help the student wellbeing in the best possible way. It is important that you have contact with fellow students and that you meet with your student group about these issues. In this way you can bring strategic questions and discussions to the table. After the University Council's advice, the Executive Board then makes the final decision.
But in practice it goes quite differently. In addition to their ‘controlling work', the student members in the council spend most of their time on consultancy work within the TU/e and in this way on the construction of these policy documents. Often at an early stage. This student input is greatly appreciated by the policy staff. Me myself was in education with a number of colleagues. Staff at the department of Education and Student Affairs, but also the deans of the Bachelor College and the Graduate School, are only very happy to have a group of stakeholders who both stand in the middle of the student population and know which policy documents incite which actions.
I alone had the role of advising on BOOST, Challenge-Based Learning, MyFuture and the university-wide career orientation policy, the Profileringsfonds, the plans for extra money from the government for student welfare, the new Bachelor College and the Graduate School. I'm probably forgetting a few more. In turn, my fellow group members and the other student members in the council had other issues for which they provided this consulting work.
In fact, the student input for the Graduate School was so appreciated that we are now allowed to attend every consultation on this with all the program directors as student members. We really enjoyed helping to build these assignments; it led to policy documents that are better geared to the needs of our students. This does mean, however, that we as student members sometimes spend about twenty to twenty-five hours a week on it.
Because we are only paid eight hours a week - not a Euflex salary but minimum wage - we asked the Executive Board for a wage increase. This was unfortunately answered three times in the same way. Namely that we, as members of the University Council, should stick to those eight hours per week and focus on the main points; the controlling work. On the other hand, there are all those employees at ESA and General Affairs who are so incredibly happy with the input we provide. I talked to many of them about the eight hours a week we have available for our work. This is what I was told: 'I thought the U-council was a full-time job', or: 'You guys provide us with so much input to make policy, that's so nice! That eight hours a week doesn't scale at all'.
I hope that the Executive Board will start to realize that student members of the University Council are actually helping to build and thus improve the quality of policy. I also hope that the future members are as crazy as we are to keep putting in all these hours. They can't do that either...