Previously, this article stated the president of student association Laurentius, Chiel Stalenhoef, mentioning that his association would organise a CO2-neutral lustrum. This statement is not correct and was based on a communication error between the party leaders.
Ten lead candidates stare into the spotlights from behind their lecterns. 150 students entered the Erasmus Pavilion theatre hall in dribs and drabs just prior the start of the debate on Friday afternoon. Carrying the obligatory beer, they were incredibly noisy; mainly discussing new concessions and lecturers. Debate leader Hans van den Berg, better known as chairperson of the University Council, then used his thumb and index finger to whistle loudly, after which the clamour died down, heralding the start of a fierce three-hour-long debate.
The event, organised by the Rotterdam Chamber of Associations, centred on four statements selected by University Council members. The chairpersons of the student associations RSC-RVSV, Laurentius, SSR and NSR introduced the statements. Van den Berg asked the audience to hold up a red or green piece of paper after each statement was read. He gave a warning: “Expect provocative statements!”
Voting on statements
The first statement asserted that the house-sharing permit should be abolished. This regulation was introduced in 2021 and requires a permit to be issued if more than three people live in one building; these are no longer being issued this academic year. A large majority of the students in the room was understandably in favour of the statement.
The second statement suggested that a binding climate agreement would be a good thing. Although Rotterdam is taking steps on a climate agreement, there are no consequences for companies and institutions that do not adhere to the agreements. Most of the room held up green after this statement.
The third statement asserted that there’s currently a lack of surveillance and not enough cameras on the streets, including police patrols and measures that could make victims of harassment feel safer. The room was divided on this one.
Does more immigration foster Rotterdam’s identity? The majority of voters disagreed with this statement.
Not every party debated on each statement and for each point; six parties were invited to step forward.
There was immediate disagreement about whether EUR should continue to attract international students. Groenlinks lead candidate Judith Bokhove was fiercely critical of Leefbaar Rotterdam party leader Robert Simons when he said he wanted to end the arrival of international students as he feels there’s not enough room for them.
Leefbaar Rotterdam and Vincent Karremans from VVD were diametrically opposed to Imane Elfilali of Volt on the issue of noise nuisance by students in shared housing. According to Elfilali, last year was “totally unrepresentative” of the noise nuisance that students normally cause in neighbourhoods like Kralingen. That’s why she’s also for abolishing the house-sharing permit. Karremans and Simons chose the side of residents, although Karremans was more in favour of widening the permit so that, for example, not three but four students or starters would be able to live together.
Who will pay for the climate deal?
The affordability of the climate agreement also led to disagreement. 50+ leader Ellen Verkoele wondered who will pay for the climate transition in the port city and who will pay for the job losses she claims will occur in the industrial sector.Agnes Maassen from D66, however, thought that action should be taken because if we do nothing everything will fall on the shoulders of the generation of voters currently studying.
The way the parties want to make the agreement binding was also a point of discussion. For PvdA politician Dennis Tak, the transition will be feasible primarily if politicians work constructively with companies. According to him, his party often talks with port companies that want to become more sustainable or want to start a sustainable start-up. Wie from Volt suggested using solutions that already exist, such as hydrogen pilots at the airport. Partij voor de Dieren wanted to close entire sections of the port without consultation, as the party thinks that’s the only way to put an immediate stop on the consumption of fossil fuels.
Three-story high and out of sight
Should Rotterdam welcome more immigrants? The debate on this was fierce. 50+ was totally against this. The VVD representative only wanted to accept immigrants if they can be accommodated. Karremans only saw this as an option as long as “they’re not housed out of sight in a three-story high flat in Charlois or Carnisse”. “They wouldn’t like it there and Rotterdam citizens wouldn’t either.” Groenlinks and Christenunie on the other hand do think that welcoming more immigrants is a topic for discussion. Annet Zevenbergen from Christenunie stressed: “Rotterdam is home to over 170 nationalities and that’s something we should be proud of.”