The theatre hall of the Pavilion was reasonably crowded with about forty interested people, most of whom election candidates, former councillors or supporters of one of the four parties. After the opening statements, Achraf Taouil of the Erasmus Student Coalition and Nawin Ramcharan (Liberi Erasmi) were to debate whether students should be more involved in university decisions. This round did not offer much spectacle yet, as both candidates agreed: there should be more participation at all levels.

Then Cagla Altin (Erasmus Alliance) and Aki Negate (Progressive Student Party) took to the stage, to talk about promoting entrepreneurship among students. Altin saw many benefits in the mindset of entrepreneurship for students, Negate criticised the vision of seeing private enterprises as the template for everything. But again, the debate remained fairly tame.

Personal attack

After a short break, the debate got more heated. On substance, Altin and Taouil did not disagree all that much on whether student well-being should be improved upon at the expense of academic success (they both thought well-being was at least as important as success), but throughout their debate, the tone became more personal.

Taouil blamed Altin and the rest of the University Council for lack of engagement with certain groups of students, for example after the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. “My association IQRA and the Turkish association Mozaik stood alone”, he said. Altin pointed out to Taouil that, in his capacity as chair of IQRA, she had offered him her help after the earthquake. “That was only after a week”, Taouil sneered, to which the debate leader asked both candidates not to make it too personal. Altin also said that the Erasmus Alliance was pushing for more prayer rooms and improve their quality, which met her with jeers from Taouil’s supporters in the audience.

'Threat to democracy'

A final debate round followed between Ramcharan and Negate. Negate’s Progressive Student Party largely stems from the OccupyEUR movement, and Ramcharan had already expressed negative views on Occupy’s conduct during the recent occupations. Ramcharan barely addressed Negate’s argument, who explained why his party wants to cut all ties between the university and the fossil industry: “The university has to admit that it’s a political choice. With the weapons and tobacco industry, we have already done it, so why not with the fossil industry? It’s arguably even more disastrous for our planet.”

Ramcharan stopped short of speaking about the nuisance he felt the occupations had caused. “All buildings had to be closed, a lot of students were inconvenienced. The occupations were a threat to democracy.” To which Negate called the deployment of riot police (protesters were dragged away and arrested) a threat to democracy. After some urging, Ramcharan commented on the statement. “Shell is an evil company, if you look at its history, how it has treated certain countries, for example. I am not blind to that. But if you want to bring about change, you need Shell. Shell is a multinational that can help with that very thing.”

Only since last year have parties or lists been allowed in university council elections. Apart from the four major lists, one more list (Erasmus United) with two people and five independent candidates are participating in the elections. None of these candidates had registered to participate in the debate. The entire list of candidates can be found here and voting is still open until 11.59 pm on Tuesday evening.


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