“What an idiotic non-debate!”, fumes Ewout Ketelaars, former president of the RSC (now RSC-RVSV). This proves to be one of the few moments of excitement during Tuesday’s Chairpersons Debate in the aula in Eurekaweek. Ten Rotterdam study and student associations attracted new students and debated internationalisation, career prospects and the association character.

Ketelaars isn’t keen on the idea that associations should make their Dutch core values more flexible to open themselves up to international students. “We are now debating whether we should reduce one to increase the other. Make it and-and. Involve international students in the association in their own way, then everyone’s happy and you don’t need to discuss whether it’s necessary to flexibilise the Dutch core values.”

Dutch core values

All the chairpersons want to offer international students a warm welcome to their association, but they have different opinions about what ‘the Dutch core values’ mean. Preses Milan Lips from SSR Rotterdam includes hazing in the term. To the disapproval of Tobias Hoogteijling from FAECTOR: “When I hear the word ‘Dutch core values’, I think of much more fundamental things like freedom, equality and care for each other.”

As an added gimmick, the audience can use their smartphones to vote on the statements. The results are displayed on the screen, but they don’t really generate any further discussion.

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The audience had a clear opinion about the third statement of the debate: A multidisciplinary background of students is only to be found at a student association. Image credit: Tim Ficheroux

‘We just call the post a chairperson’

There were remarkably few differences in opinion about the statement that membership of a study association leads to better career prospects than a social club. According to most chairpersons, it doesn’t make much difference and it mainly comes down to individual students. Only Hoogteijling insists that 70 percent of the econometrics students get a job thanks to the career events organised by study association FAECTOR.

The fiercest pinpricks are inflicted outside the debate itself, during the introduction of the associations. “I’d already heard about the 55th anniversary of the JFR, but this year we’re celebrating our centenary, which will be a far bigger festivity,” snarls Lips. Sander de Groot counters by mocking the standard terms used in several associations ‘preses’ and ‘president’. “We just call the post ‘chairperson’, simple.”

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Image credit: Tim Ficheroux

‘I'd expected more action’

Not every member of the audience is satisfied with the event. “I’d expected more action involving fierce debates with the microphone being hurled to the ground,” says new Health Care Studies student Lucas Boekkamp (18). “The differences between the associations weren’t clear. After three minutes, I’d forgotten who was who. Perhaps they ought to have name plates next time.”

New history student Luuk Rensen (17) was happy though. “The debate was very informative. Particularly about the Dutch core values, which are important at a time of globalisation and internationalisation. This has really helped me decide on the associations to choose. Being able to vote also made me feel involved.”