The University Council (UC) is the university’s main representative body. Through the Council, students and staff members are able to have their say and even exercise the right of consent on certain aspects of EUR policy. These include the distribution of funds as well as matters like sustainability, examination regulations, study areas and so on. The Council’s quite important, in other words, but during this year’s elections, only 12 percent of the students cast their vote. At virtually every other university in the Netherlands, UC elections can count on a higher turnout.
Right now, the student members of the University Council are elected per faculty. This guarantees that each faculty is represented on the Council – regardless of its size. The larger faculties have two seats, the smaller faculties one. There’s a similar system in place for staff members. The Council proposes allowing students throughout EUR to vote for any candidate from any faculty. Staff elections will continue to follow the existing arrangement.
The call for centralised elections isn’t some left-field idea: EUR is actually the only Dutch university that has decentralised elections and the only university that doesn’t have student parties. At the same time, turnout in Rotterdam tends to be the lowest in the country.
Drinks and slick promos
And there are other disadvantages to the decentralised system besides. One such drawback is that sometimes it has become altogether impossible to vote within a faculty. There simply aren’t enough candidates in that faculty for an election. In 2018 this was the case at three faculties. Over the past few years, the University Council has tried to get a larger number of students interested in a candidature with drinks, public meetings, slick promo clips and social media events, but no such luck.
Another complicating factor is that candidates are only able to address their fellow faculty members. This makes it difficult for them to associate themselves with other candidates within a party, and as a result very few campaigns offer broader, EUR-wide perspectives. In addition, many students attend lectures at a number of different faculties – making the electoral system even more complicated.
In its response, the Executive Board informed the University Council that while it shares their concerns about the low turnout and the lack of awareness, it does not plan to adopt the proposal whole hog. According to the Executive Board, the main strength of the existing arrangement is the fact that all faculties are represented, and this is precisely what would be lost with the adoption of the proposed system. This inspired the Executive Board’s suggestion to group the faculties into clusters – based on three key themes, for example: economic, social and medical studies. In this arrangement, the elections would be organised per cluster.
The University Council will be meeting with the Executive Board on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the proposal.