In November, Ramcharan stood on the barricades when there were rumours about the introduction of a coronavirus entry pass for higher education. He became the face of Students for Open Education and went to the University Council to seek support for his campaign against a QR code at the university. “At the University Council, no one was really aware of our concerns. I felt hardly represented. So we decided that if we are not represented, we should do something about it next year.”
The wolf protects
Ramcharan and his kindred spirits decided to found Liberi Erasmi, which means Erasmus’s Children. Ramcharan: “One of the things Erasmus is known for is that he was not afraid to think critically about prevalent standards in society.” Liberi Erasmi is an advocate of open debate, where everybody can be heard. According to Ramcharan, disrespecting people, no matter how strongly you disagree with them, leads to problems.
The logo, a wolf, represents protection, Ramcharan explains. “Our group had the feeling we were jeopardised, so we needed protection.” The party leader mentions several examples of situations in which students felt threatened, especially during the corona crisis. “I heard about a boy who was changing at Erasmus Sport. In the changing room, there was this group discussing what should be done with people who did not want to get vaccinated. How to torture them. That was most unpleasant to him. Another time, a girl came to me, crying. She told me how at her work and during lectures she was looked down on because of her views on COVID-19. I am in a number of group chats myself, in which some fierce discussions took place as well. The atmosphere was not all that pleasant, and this is not as it should be.”
Erasmus’s Children also speak out against what Ramcharan calls ‘biased education’. “The university should be a place where everybody feels at home, also when they have a different opinion.” As an example he mentions situations from lectures in which certain political parties and representatives of the people were undermined. Ramcharan is also against a rainbow zebra crossing between the Mandeville and Sanders Buildings. “We regard this as symbol politics. The rainbow flag is a symbol for progressive liberalism, and not everybody agrees with that. It has the effect that a certain standard is set on behalf of the entire university.”
Ramcharan emphasises that he is all in favour of acceptance of homosexuality. “Yet, there should also be a place for people who have different opinions about this. Other ideologies should not be excluded from the debate.” As far as he is concerned, there are no limits to what people are allowed to think or say, ‘as long as it is within the limits of the law’. This seems to be at odds with his view that students in the changing room of Erasmus Sport, for instance, should speak more kindly about those who are not vaccinated. “No, I believe they may think and say so, but they should treat one another respectfully.”
To achieve ‘real inclusivity’, as Ramcharan calls it, Liberi Erasmi promotes more voting rights for students, for example in the form of a referendum or poll. “Like with the discussion about whether the campus should be vegan. Under an Instagram post of Erasmus University, I saw there is quite a lot of resistance against this, but I feel this opinion is hardly heard in the University Council. A poll could be a means to bridge this gap.”
In terms of diversity and inclusivity, Liberi Erasmi seems to differ from the other two parties, Aeffix and Erasmus Alliance, where the points referred to above are concerned. In other fields, such as mental health, privacy and participation enhancement, there seems to be more common ground. The party wants more support for students with mental issues, preservation of the Living Room at Erasmus Plaza, abolishment of online proctoring, and more attention for the University Council. In addition, the party programme includes some original ideas, like ‘doing more sports at a lower price’ and awarding certificates to students who have been in a board position for a year.
Why should students vote Liberi Erasmi? “We represent real inclusivity, and we take ourselves very seriously. We have a robust party programme with input from various students. If you vote for us, you can expect something in return.”