For years, members of the University Council fought for a revision of the electoral system to allow students to unite in a candidate list. That revision went into effect in 2022, and Aeffix was the first party founded after that. The party consisted mostly of students who had previously campaigned for the party system, but Aeffix didn’t have a very distinct ideology. Nevertheless, the party became the largest with five of the twelve student seats.
The two other parties in the council, Liberi Erasmi and Erasmus Alliance, do continue. New are the Progressive Student Party and the Erasmus Student Coalition.
Progressive Student Party: ‘A force for change, not for profit’
The list of the Progressive Student Party has a lot of faces also seen during the OccupyEUR protests, number one Maryam Mohamed says. She emphasises that she doesn’t want to be called party leader. “We do everything collectively, so I may be the frontrunner but definitely not the leader.” What does her party want? “We aim to make education a force for change and not for profit”, Maryam summarises.
That means no more fossil fuel ties, decarbonisation of the university and decolonisation of the curriculum. Also: more focus on the needs of students, for example by creating more study spaces and giving more attention to their mental health. A personal point of attention for Maryam are the conversations in tutorials: “There should be more critical discussion there.”
Erasmus Student Coalition: 'Ombudsperson participation'
The list of the Erasmus Student Coalition consists of fresh faces. Frontrunner is Achraf Taouil, currently president of student association IQRA. He hopes to engage in ‘ombudsperson participation’ in the University Council. “By ombudsperson participation, we mean students becoming more involved with the council throughout the year. For example by organising information meetings, which will be well promoted. Because you did see from last year’s attendance rates that the University Council is not very alive among EUR students.”
Achraf hopes to make the university more inclusive from the council. “After the earthquake in Turkey and Syria in February, you saw that students needed culturally and religiously sensitive support. The university did very well, and we hope to make that more permanent.” Another important point is to encourage interdisciplinary education. “In my Public Administration studies, you already see that regularly, we want to strengthen that where possible.”
Liberi Erasmi: 'For the silent majority who no longer feel free'
Liberi Erasmi has fielded as many as 21 candidates in their second year, while there is room for only twelve students in the council. According to party leader Nawin Ramcharan, the list is so long because many students knocked on their door, ‘because they are spooked by developments on campus’.
According to Nawin, they do not feel free to express their opinions while ‘selective norms and values are imposed by the university, which they do not identify with’. Among the issues he talks about are the construction of a rainbow zebra crossing last year, the plan to offer only vegan food on campus from 2030 and ‘mandatory climate classes at the beginning of your studies’. “We want to give the silent majority a voice”, says Nawin.
Erasmus Alliance: 'Not study success, but student success'
Cagla Altin, the number one of Erasmus Alliance, is going for her third year in the University Council, which would make her the longest-serving student. According to her, the Alliance is a ‘diverse and inclusive team, fighting for the betterment of all students and for student success rather than study success’.
By student success, she means less focus on high grades and more time for side activities, mental wellbeing and mentoring. “We see that graduates are super strong theoretically, but social skills are less developed. We want to address that”, says Cagla. In recent times, Alliance students have contributed to achieving longer building opening hours, a space for mindfulness in the library, and are thinking about shortening the academic year, among other things.
Compared to last year, many more students are running: from 25 to 57 candidates. Of these, 47 are on the list of one of the parties, there are two lists with two students and the remaining six candidates are independent. The question is whether the longer list will also lead to higher turnout, which has been very low in Rotterdam for years. Last year, 5.7 per cent of students cast their vote. The elections begin on 15 May and last until 23 May.