‘Dear student, start looking around you’
Three quarters of the student population don’t vote in the University Council elections out of disinterest, Tim de Jong – who’s a TU/e student himself – observes. He thinks students should get involved more. ‘Seeing how the basic study grant has been reintroduced, I think that’s the least you could do,’ De Jong writes in his column.
Just like everyone, you have an opinion. You, too, have something to say about everything that goes on at this university. Really, you do. I’ve heard you sigh and moan about the shortage of study spots in line for the coffee machine. And I distinctly remember you saying you couldn’t find a room due to internationalization at last week’s get-together.
So I would like to remind you that you’re paying tuition to a government-sponsored institute. You should get quality education in return. Nay, the university is actually obliged to provide this. The government monitors and enforces this on your behalf, using audits and other tools to verify the quality of education and our satisfaction as its beneficiaries.
When I, a student myself, shared my opinion on how this institute should be run in a critical open letter, my fellow letter writers and I were invited to an open discussion with the Executive Board and the deans. During that discussing, I immediately noticed that everyone in the board rooms isn’t only professional, but also willing to help. Against my expectations, my concerns and problems were also present at this administrative level. While they’re stuck with the burden of trying to solve them, I have the privilege of complaining.
Which brings me back to you. Imagine I asked you whether you knew what the ‘scale jump’, ‘strategy 2030’, or the ‘strategic plan’ was. You wouldn’t have a clue, nor would the students to your left and right, that these were all documents that shape TU/e’s future. Unless you’re in the bubble of students doing an administrative officer year, you’re part of the vast majority of the university that actually knows nothing about the university. Three quarters of the students don’t vote in the University Council elections out of disinterest. Do you?
This is exactly what the common denominator is of all of the university’s challenges. At the administrative level, everyone longs for the students to get involved more. The board really wants to chart the course together with students, the deans really want to hear from you what’s going on at the departments, and the student councils really want to know what they should be fighting for. But they’re all failing to reach you. Right now, you’re actually being represented by the associations, which invariably have their own side agendas. Eindhoven has only recently had a student union.
That’s why I’m calling upon you to inform yourself of what’s going on at the university. Read Cursor (as you’re doing now) once in a while. Talk about it on the breaks. Develop an opinion on matters such as internationalization, the growth of the university, and whatever else strikes you as important once you start reading up on it. Vote in the council elections. Complete the surveys. Seeing how the basic study grant has been reintroduced, I think that’s the least you could do.
If you have your opinion at the ready, the ball’s in the university’s court to improve collaboration. And to share the right information in the right place, because at the moment it’s not surprising that nobody knows what ‘strategy 2030’ is. Even students that take more of an interest have barely heard of it, if at all. What’s more, the university should take the initiative of actually initiating participatory processes, instead of evading responsibility by waiting for ‘bottom up’ initiatives. When it comes to collaboration, it’s not enough to ask for our input; we need to get a say in decision-making processes. This will only work if students who contribute to this process on equal footing and equal pay, because that will actually make them want to contribute.
It won’t go smoothly right away. If it were easy, things would’ve been properly arranged a long time ago. But the university is willing, which is illustrated by – among other things – the outcome of the activist occupations by University Rebellion. Following these, the decision was made to only enter into new collaborations with the fossil industry if these concern renewable energy. If you were unaware of this until now, it’s the perfect example of how students are badly informed and how the university could do a better job sharing information.
I’m definitely not saying you and I should also plan an occupation, however fun this sounds. There’s a more productive way. One that requires us to start looking around us and start getting involved in how things are run at the university. You, me and all other students have that duty to a greater or lesser extent. And if it turns out that all of our attempts fall on deaf ears, time and time again, I’d be open to discussing occupations after all.