Hulzebos (25) had been Chair of the Dutch Student Union since 23 June, but was suspended by the rest of the Board on Monday 10 September. “I can no longer access my e-mail address or my contacts. The press telephone I’d been given has been blocked”, explained Hulzebos, who feels she has been treated ‘extremely unfairly’.

She was suspended but, according to Hulzebos, the Board was not authorised to do this. “I had no access to the statutes and no idea of my rights”, she explained. The press telephone is now being answered by Vice-Chair, Carline van Breugel.

Within the Board there was a conflict about the direction of the student organisation and about the level of activism in which it should engage. It boiled down to the activist Chair against the rest who, according to Hulzebos, were more focused on meetings and consultation.

Taking to the streets

Hulzebos: “I wanted to transform the LSVb into a true union again and to take to the streets with students.” Her co-Board members were said to have forbidden the Chair to go on demonstrations even if they were in line with LSVb views. And a vacancy advertisement she created for an employee to help her set up campaigns, lay neglected for weeks and was not posted online. “It was always: ‘Tomorrow’.”

At the end of August, Hulzebos gave a controversial interview in the Trouw newspaper, in which she called the cuts in higher education something ‘to cry about’. “The LSVb was held to account by the Minister and the rest of the Board thought it was my fault. They were not at all happy, while I think that we should be pleased if the Minister is made to feel uncomfortable. As union, that’s what we’re for isn’t it?”

A spokesperson from the Ministry confirmed that, following the interview, a discussion had taken place with LSVb Vice-Chair Carline van Breugel, although he doesn’t think ‘being held to account’ is a good description. He doesn’t know why Hulzebos wasn’t there.

Hobby horse

Her colleague Board members also wouldn’t allow her to rail against the idea of civic service, a hobby horse of the ChristenUnie and CDA. “The argument was that we had to stay friends with the coalition.”

On Monday 10 September, the situation escalated. Hulzebos proposed working with a mediator to reach a solution but this was thrown out by the rest of the Board. They gave her a choice: resign voluntarily or be dismissed. She was given until Tuesday afternoon at 12.00 noon to consider this but resigned on Monday.

They did still start with mediation but without much success. The conflict continues to rage. “The Board promised to cancel my appointments but they didn’t”, stated Hulzebos. “Because people couldn’t reach me and I didn’t have access to my agenda, my good name has suffered and my character has been tarnished. The Board has treated me with no respect whatsoever.”

More complicated

Member unions have been kept informed by the rest of the Board. “It was more complicated than simply a conflict of direction”, said one of them, but the member unions didn’t want to say anything further. They referred us to the LSVb.

But, in spite of repeated requests, Vice-Chair Carline van Breugel still doesn’t want to say anything about the issue, as the mediation process was still ongoing. “We want to stay professional.”

An emergency meeting is to take place with member unions on Wednesday, and Van Breugel can only respond after this. In the meantime, Hulzebos has written a letter to the unions in which she clarified her side of the story.