Compensation protest: ‘A mortgage is gone with a 40k loan’.
Nearly eight thousand students protested last Saturday for more compensation for the loan…
In the train, not many other students were evident, but Marleen, Paulo, Feline and Jelle planned on being among the first to be at Museum Square. Since the beginning of January, the four members of the recently established Studentprotest group have worked hard together with two other students on writing a policy plan for compensating the student loan system generation. In the train Feline (premaster Medicine) wrote ‘#krompensatie’ on a piece of cardboard, hinting at the warped system which saddles current students with mountains of debt. Their mood is positive, and the students laugh about the situations the club has encountered so far because of their action: from interviews with famous reporters to the handing over of their petition to a moody MP from the conservative VVD party.
No student stereotype
The group has received a lot of media attention in the past month. “I have changed all my social media accounts to private. I don’t want the press having easy access to them,” said Jelle (master degree Marketing management). The others did the same. “You don’t want them to use a photo of you where you are drinking beer in the pub. This leads immediately to a student stereotype,” added Feline. Because everything has happened so quickly since they first met on January 3, they are not yet used to the media attention.
At Amsterdam Centraal station, they wondered whether to walk to Museum Square while holding up the signs to draw attention. But they decided on the tram where they joined a number of other students going to the protest. “It’s a pity that we couldn’t make a similar statement to the farmers who blocked the roads with their tractors. We would have to all stand there with our bicycles,” laughed chair Paulo (master Business information management).
Once at the square, they put their signs together and found a spot close to the stage. The protest wasn’t planned to start for another half hour, but the square was already filling up. The streets around the square were filled with flag-waving marches by youth political parties, almost all of which were in attendance. As the many SP members took up places in front of the stage, concerns were expressed: “We should stand back a bit because our flags are blocking the view,” decided one of them. “Can the flags of the political parties move back a bit? Then it will at least look like more of a student protest at the front,” called someone on stage. Many students had to laugh.
Aside from the four Studentenprotest members, a bunch of other Rotterdam students travelled there to protest. Pepijn (Economics and Law) was ready with his flag of the Student Union Rotterdam: “Just consider how badly this student loan system generation is affected that even Rotterdam students come all the way to Amsterdam to protest.” Fellow students Quint and Fabian were also present. Quint previously wrote an opinion piece about the compensation of the student loan system generation in the Financieel Dagblad newspaper.
Philosophy students Senad and Thomas stood under the red flags of their youth party Rood [red]. Like most students, Thomas wants a fair compensation for his already huge student loan debt. Senad does not have any debt himself but that does not stop him from protesting in sympathy. “The debt of my fellow students is also my debt.”
Before the protest began, one of the hosts on the stage practised the slogans with the audience. ‘Unlucky generation, we want compensation!’ called out the over seven thousand voices on the square.
Then the protest actually started, with the speakers from the National Student Union explaining to the crowd why they deserved fair compensation. The arguments were difficult to hear at the back because of all the loud cheering. Then the host Alina invited eight politicians to briefly clarify their party’s stance on the issue. Tribute was paid to the SP and PvdA, and Laurens Dassen from Volt received the most applause because the large numbers from the Volt delegation stood near the stage with their purple flags. When it was the VVD’s turn, it didn’t matter what the speaker said because nothing could be heard over the loud booing.
The protest suddenly changed into a rock concert when Gotu Jim and Hang Youth took the stage and played their number IK BETAAL ME STUFI NIET TERUG [I’m not paying my loan back], which everyone sang along with loudly. Mosh pits started forming in the crowd, and this energy was channelled into the start of the march. The students walked and shouted loudly behind a fire engine that led them from Museum Square through Amsterdam to Rembrandt Square.
After it was all over, the members of Studentprotest were very satisfied. They lost Marleen and Jelle in the crush, but Paulo felt the day was a success. “Much more fun than I expected, they made a sort of show out of it. The atmosphere was terrific, although I must say that when VVD took the stage, it took a harsh turn.” Feline was also more than satisfied. “I thought it was fantastic!” They went off to review the day over a drink and continue the discussion of their next steps towards a properly compensated generation.