A democratic crisis at the humanities council?

A democratic crisis at the humanities council?

Almost half of the student council of the Faculty of Humanities quit this year. This means that the council is not only vastly understaffed, half of the parties chosen aren’t represented at all anymore. A democratic crisis? Not quite.

The faculty-student council normally consists of twelve people, however, according to Sara Kemper, the chair of the humanities student council, ‘it is really normal that the council starts with eight to ten people.’ Sometimes the problem simply lies within the electoral lists. For example, the party 020 at the Faculty of Humanities won two seats last election, but only had one person on their list. This meant that the humanities student council already started out with one person less.

This workforce problem also persists in other areas, for example, TOF, the largest party at the Humanities Faculty has dissolved as no board members could be found, explains TOF council member Juliet Hondtong.

Over the past few months, more and more people quit. ‘It is often due to personal issues because being a council member is quite heavy and demanding’, Sara says. She emphasises that the UvA and the political parties should inform their candidates about the workload. ‘People want to continue their studies next to the council work, which means you are studying forty hours and working fifteen hours a week, that is just too much.’

The council members of both De Vrije Student and 020 have quit the council this year and nobody was there to replace them. This means that only TOF and De Activistenpartij remain represented. What does this mean for the council’s democratic validity? ‘I think you can say that (…) it is less democratic, but our voting percentage was eleven percent last year, so I think you can ask yourself how democratic we were in the first place, to be very honest’, Sara explains. She herself has a mandate of 64 votes, compared to the total amount of humanities students, this is very low. Thus the question of general democratic validity remains up in the air.

The council is not left high and dry entirely! To ease the workload councils hire so-called ‘council assistants’. ‘Our policy is that we ask council assistants their opinion, they are at our general meetings, and we want to know what they think about issues’, Sara says. This means that council assistants are treated as council members, however, as they are not democratically chosen, they cannot vote. While these assistants help with some of the heavy workloads, Sara also explains that some topics simply are less of a priority. ‘I don’t want people burning out.’