YOUVOTE 2022: Decentralization, Accountability and Academic improvement at the FEB

YOUVOTE 2022: Decentralization, Accountability and Academic improvement at the FEB

The annual UvA Student Council elections will be held from Monday 16 until Friday 20 May. Student Councils represent the interests of UvA students and you get to decide who sits on the student councils! Are you voting?

The Economics and Business Student Council (Faculteit Economie en Bedrijfskunde, FEB) represents the department of Economics and Business. The Faculty’s Student Council has eight members. 5 different parties: List Sefa, 020, Inter, NewDemocratsFEB, SLAAFS. Four different students: Youri, Mia, Mahmood, Miguel and Filip.

List Sefa is a party organised by the Sefa Study Association to help students interact and perform at their best. Their agenda encompasses academics and job prospects, mental health, housing, diversity, inclusion, and social life, and they are solely focused on participation in FCR elections. Streamed or recorded lectures, counselling for students battling with mental health, the formation of a Housing Advisory Party, and increased inclusion are among the party’s policy suggestions. They can continue their emphasis on the students with De Vrije Student as an ally in the CSR, and if there is something List Sefa cannot accomplish on a faculty level, they will bring it to the CSR.

Youri Hijdra (List Sefa):

What are some of the goals on your agenda for the FEB?

I’m focusing a lot on first-year students: What are the problems of first-year students? Housing, for example; is not something the faculty can do, but UvA can help by providing ways in how we look for housing. Another thing, now that we’ve gone back to normal, is to keep the already existing knowledge clips, the recordings of the lectures. The University should find its balance and not entirely switch back to only in-person teaching.

Sefa is both an important student association and an affiliated party. Do you feel like your influence inside FEB is undermining the competition in these elections, creating a conflict of interest?

Sefa helps us organise the committee, now I have a team of highly motivated people because of the assistance of Sefa and for other parties is much more difficult to get people that are willing to run for the council. That’s how I see it. It’s just purely helping us with achieving it. We have gotten a lot of freedom with our policy too. Of course, we wouldn’t do anything that Sefa itself would be opposed to, but we get a lot of freedom from them, so I don’t see the conflict there.

Last year only 11% of students voted in the elections, most of them either not being interested or informed enough about them. What are some ideas for improving communication between FSR and the students?

It’s very difficult and it’s something we’ve been struggling with, as well, from the beginning. We’ve been trying to get something to attract students, for example, we tried the dino suit that we had to make them go like Hei!, to make them aware of the existence of our party. It just attracts the eye, but our story is: this is you guys, you are the dino and we are trying to help you. That is how we tried to mitigate the problem. Maybe next year when we are going to be on the faculty council we’ll also try to encourage it.

020, a political party dedicated to encouraging diversity, assisting students with housing issues, and connecting students with career and internship possibilities. Their pillars are Jobs&Internships, Sustainability, Democracy, Quality of Education, Campus Life, Diversity&Inclusion, Mental Health, and Student Housing, and they have a whole agenda. They use progressive pragmatism to attain goals for the benefit of kids because they are industrious and determined.

Mia Haug (020)

What differentiates you from the rest of the parties?

When it comes to our niche, I think tactics are the most important element. We never show up to meetings without having our policies fully fletched out. We have a team to help our representatives with the policies, and our research.

One of the things you are thriving for is more Jobs&Internships opportunities for 1st and 2nd-year students. What is your plan for implementing this?

Even our party members have a hard time finding internships themselves or information about it. It’s there, but it’s very lowkey, you need to bring them to light. Until now we have proposed multiple ways of doing that, one would be in cooperation with the internship service of the university itself. For some courses there are requirements: you need to do your internship specifically during this period, we will only help you then and that’s it. But what if I wanna do it over the summer, it doesn’t even have to count as part of my studies? Then, you don’t have a lot of opportunities.

Last year only 11% of students voted in the elections, most of them either not being interested or informed enough about them. What are some ideas you have for improving communication between FSR and the students?

One of our representatives is the current PR chair and one goal for the year was to raise the turnout and, of course, make students aware there is a thing called CSR/FSR. I think what he has done pretty well was having more engaging social media content, but also what I enjoyed was coffee with CSR. It’s not the most widespread method because you only tackle a certain amount of students, but I think it did a pretty good job establishing a good presence. That is something that I hope to see continuing next year. 

INTER is a powerful party at the UvA that focuses on student welfare, openness and democracy, and educational excellence. The party is eager to mobilise students from throughout the University of Amsterdam to take action and make a lasting influence. In this year’s elections, their candidate (former Chairman of the Council last year) has three key goals for the FEB FSR: improved practical assistance for international students, more possibilities for students to connect with other students, and lectures that are either broadcast or recorded.

Mahmood Nasher (INTER)

What is your motivation for participating in the elections?

I will be following a Master’s degree in Economics and Business, which makes me eligible to run again in this year’s elections. Because I’ve been through it previously I think I can achieve what I want. My main points to achieve next year would be better support for international students in terms of practical matters, and lectures to be either streamed or recorded since we already have the technical infrastructure for that.

What do you feel like you’ve learned from your previous experience of running for the FEB student elections?

The main challenge previously was the communication from the University management to students. I think there is a lot of improvement in that field, because, because the faculty is always trying to create these events, and opportunities for students, but most of the time 80% of the students don’t even know about them. I’ve witnessed how the management works and how they are trying to create stuff for students, but it’s not reaching the students enough.

What practical matters do you have in mind when you say there should be better support for international students? Where do you think that the University fails to offer the support needed?

One suggestion could be appointing one study advisor who is an expert in these matters because as an international student I wouldn’t go to the tax authorities, I would go to the University where there is one person who is knowledgeable in these issues. It should be standard information because, at a certain point, all international students are gonna face the same set of issues. There are o couple of ways to go about it, but I don’t think anyone is working on it at the moment.

The New Democrats are a newly created political party that is participating in this year’s elections. The thought that they might enhance the University by establishing a set of universal principles and tangible activities for all students drew the NewDemocrats team together. They’re pushing for more accountability, decentralisation, and free peer tutoring for all children this year.

Miguel Adan (NewDemocrats)

You are a new party, born on the 19th of April. And what did you feel like the others parties were lacking and that there was a need for a new one?

In our opinion, the party themselves are different now. I think a lot of voters and a lot of students that are part of these parties are very disillusioned. They are sold this idea that the Student Council is this political institution, but it’s not. It’s a fundamental part of the University process, but it’s only another part of a very big machine.

What can you tell me about your plan for implementing free peer tutoring for all?

More and more our University has decreased the contact hours that students have and even they admit that there is a direct correlation between contact hours and passing rates. So if you lower contact hours, you lower passing rates. what we’re offering with this free peer tutoring program is just more contact hours. We feel that this program can level the playfield among students. We figured that one of the things that differentiate students is the fact that some students can pay 200-300 Euros to get special training for a course while others just have to make through with what the University provides. If you’re struggling with a course, the University should put in extra effort and resources so that you have the extra help you need.

Most parties are focusing on implementing policies for Mental Health, Sustainability or Housing. Why did you choose to go on a different path regarding the main pillars of the party?

In the end for us, of course, it’s very important to be distinctive from other parties. It doesn’t mean that we’re not gonna be pushing for more mental health professionals on the faculty; this is something that I ran on last year with List Sefa and we had been progressively working on for the whole year. It’s something that takes time because mental health resources are coordinated at a central level. It feels a bit disingenuous to tell students our main pillar is mental health when it’s not one of the things you have the most ability to influence. That is something we’ll be trying to push at a Central level if, of course, we get a seat at the CSR. When it comes to accountability we feel that’s something other parties don’t want to put at the forefront because it reflects negatively on them. For us, it’s important to have accountability towards institutions, but it’s also accountability for our elected representatives.

SLAAFS is a platform that promotes inclusivity via meetings and free beer. It was founded on a common discontent with the elections. SLAAFS empowers students to run for office on their own, creating a community rather than a political party. You vote for the individual with whom you agree, and you can be comfortable that your views will not be ignored at the council’s first vote.

Filip Kmiecicky (SLAAFS)

What is your motivation for participating in the elections?

My main motivation is that since my beginning at UvA I’ve tried to engage myself in the community as much as possible, exchange experiences for example by participating in the Student Panel. Each time I noticed that we, the students, share very common problems: your grades being released late. So my motivation in running for the elections is to become this sort of connection between the student and the governing body.

What are some of the things on your agenda if you get elected?

I have a few main postulates such as doing something about the exam grades being released so late, especially because most of these exams are full if not mostly digitised by now. Looking at the broader perspective of the University community, I would like to see the University become more considerate of the student’s circumstances and act as a safe space for those who don’t necessarily feel comfortable in this new and often overwhelming setting.

Your way of implementing inclusion and diversity seems quite informal for a party. Why would you say there is a need for someone like this in the Student Council?

Actually, if you look into the party’s achievements, I believe that despite being so informal, SLAAFS is doing a pretty good job in the political forefront. Having this informal side, I think it’s a nice alternative for students who don’t necessarily feel like their views are reflected by a certain party, but they would like to vote for a particular candidate.

Photo by Catherine Vu.