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De Vrije Student
1. The UG should structurally offer free education to students who escape from conflict areas.
SOG: The UG should consider the options for each conflict, but this is an issue that requires voting on a national level. At the same time, the UG should always be ready to help students who need support. The UG isn’t a political organisation and shouldn’t become one, either. There are many conflicts the world over from which people are fleeing, and it’s difficult to determine exactly who deserves free education and who doesn’t.
Calimero: We agree that the UG should financially support students who’ve fled conflict areas. For instance, by making these students eligible for the emergency fund. This will provide some stability for students in turbulent circumstances and help them integrate in Groningen.
DVS: As far as we are concerned, this task lies with the government.
Doughnut Party: The university should offer education which can be transferred back to the students’ respective universities. In addition, opportunities for students to conduct internships/research projects should be offered to broaden their skillset. This, of course, should not be limited to students affected by the current situation in Ukraine, but to all refugee students.
2. Lecturers should provide lectures both off- and online, allowing students to decide for themselves whether to take their classes in person or online.
SOG: We think lectures should be available online for a set period of time after they’ve taken place. The low attendance rate for on-campus classes is worrisome, and the connection between students and lecturers is waning. Lecturers are missing the interaction with students and during the years education was mainly online, academic performance has dropped. Education should always be dynamic, which is why we’re in favour of lectures being available online temporarily, allowing students the flexibility to actively participate in student life.
Calimero: We disagree that all lecturers should provide both on- and offline lectures as this can diminish the quality of education and not every faculty has the technological facilities to do this. However, recording lectures can still be extremely useful for studying and exam preparation, which is why we support having recordings available during exam periods where possible, like the Faculty of Law already does.
DVS: We strive for a flexible university. Sometimes students simply cannot be there in person, so we consider an online alternative a good idea. This would allow everyone the opportunity to participate in all their education instead of having to miss a part if they happen not to be able to attend. Physical education must remain the basis, but it does not hurt if the lectures can be followed online.
Doughnut Party: Access to online material is an essential option for students who might miss a lecture. However, to ensure a good educational environment in seminars and practical classes, offline education is better suited for discussion.
3. Mandatory attendance for seminars should be abolished.
SOG: Mandatory attendance shouldn’t be abolished completely, rather, it should be determined separately for each type of seminar. It’s important to students’ freedom and health that they are able to miss a seminar and catch up later. SOG is in favour of an active and diverse student life and there should be room for students to attend conferences and participate in other activities in addition to their studies. Mandatory attendance often serves a purpose, so abolishing it completely is not an option.
Calimero: We believe in small-scale education, and attendance can help improve the quality of a course by having more interaction and active discussions. Therefore, we disagree with abolishing mandatory attendance. However, where personal circumstances make it hard to reach the attendance threshold, we support attendance repair assignments to allow students the best chance of successfully completing a course.
DVS: Students should be given the choice of whether or not to attend their seminars. Firstly, it is their own education and their own responsibility; if they choose not to attend, they probably have a good reason. Secondly, we see this as an incentive for lecturers to organise their lectures in such a way that students continue to feel motivated to attend the seminars.
Doughnut Party: Mandatory attendance is inhibiting to students who have other responsibilities. However, it is important that they attend a certain percentage of courses, otherwise it would be detrimental to their learning. A poor attendance record may limit a lecturer’s willingness to provide projects to the student.
4. If the UG abolishes the bachelor-before-master rule, this will diminish the value of the master studies. Therefore, it should be maintained.
SOG: The pandemic means many students have suffered a study delay. Easing up on the bachelor-before-master rule would be a good strategy to help these students finish their degree on schedule. This rule should remain an option for as long as the effects of the pandemic remain. This period should serve as a test for potentially instating the rule permanently.
Calimero: We disagree, as not allowing students with a small study delay to start a master’s degree could greatly inhibit them. Allowing some flexibility in applying for master programmes makes them more accessible to all students.
DVS: Many bachelor students are still experiencing the effects of the pandemic. To limit study delays as much as possible, the bachelor-before-master rule must be eased up on.
Doughnut Party: The bachelor-before-master rule should not be applied, as it limits bachelor students in their final from planning their next step, leading to uncertainty over their future. As a detrimental consequence, students may end up stressed and unable to complete their studies. This can then limit their career options.
5. The UG needs to stop adding English-taught bachelor programmes and go back to Dutch where it has already been implemented.
SOG: The UG should facilitate English-taught programmes if the language provides added value. English-taught education often comes in useful in the future and can be advantageous to students in the labour market. However, it’s also important that programmes that benefit from having Dutch as its main language are actually in Dutch, taking into account those students who prefer to study in their native language.
Calimero: Disagree. English-taught programmes are now a cornerstone of the university and taking these away would negatively impact students. However, we do not support the addition of English tracks where it makes no sense or diminishes quality of education. Quality of education should always be a priority.
DVS: Disagree. Although we believe that the Dutch language remains very important and we certainly should not lose it, we do not think that the anglicisation should be reversed. We now offer a wide range of highly regarded programmes and we should definitely retain this. However, we do think it is important that a large portion of the studies are offered in both English and Dutch, as is already the case for some studies. This way, we give students the choice and Dutch-speaking students will still be able to choose to follow a study programme in Dutch.
Doughnut Party: As the push for strengthening ties between European universities increases, the transition to English programmes facilitates the opportunity for students to continue part of their education abroad. Switching back to Dutch language programmes would impact the translatability of the study in an international setting.
6. It’s the university’s responsibility to make sure all students who need it have timely access to a psychologist.
SOG: Because of the projection that there will be a lower student influx next year because the basic grant will be reinstated the year after that, we think it’s important to wait one more year before changing the current marketing strategy. If the student influx still hasn’t dropped off by then, it would be a good idea to put an end to marketing efforts abroad.
Calimero: We agree that the UG should limit the number of students coming in to prevent the housing crisis worsening. Putting an end to all advertising is unfeasible, but the UG should take a critical look at its marketing strategy and stop marketing abroad for the time being; growth can never come at the cost of students’ well-being and basic needs. In the long term, marketing can be used to balance out student numbers across faculties and programmes.
DVS: Disagree. There is nothing wrong with having a growing number of students, nor is there anything wrong with advertising it. We are a good university and people should definitely come to see us. The most important thing is not to make false promises. Many people come to Groningen thinking they can find a room here straight away and get disappointed when that turns out not to be the case. There is a housing crisis and it is important to emphasise this when advertising the university.
Doughnut Party: While limiting the number of students coming is necessary, putting an end to all advertising is ill-advised. As the university has data regarding the location students come from, it should take a more systematic approach to curb numbers and determine where reduction in advertisement would be beneficial.
7. It’s the university’s responsibility to make sure all students who need it have timely access to a psychologist.
SOG: It’s important that the UG be involved in its students’ well-being, since this greatly impacts the way the university functions. The UG is responsible for efficient access to student psychologists as well as a proper referral system, to ensure all students get the help they need. The UG should work on making student psychologists easier to find and do something about the waitlists.
Calimero: We agree that the UG has a duty of care towards its students and should provide access to well-being tools and support such as psychologists. Like any other organisation, the UG has a responsibility to ensure that organisation members, both students and staff, are mentally well.
DVS: Disagree. Although mental health care is very important, it remains the responsibility of the mental health services to treat people who need it. As a university, we offer resources to help students get started, but we are a scientific institute, not a mental health institute. These resources should be maintained because they have been shown to work, but they should not be the end-all-be-all for students who need care.
Doughnut Party: Absolutely. Students are provided with the information on how to contact a psychologist. Reaching out for help with your mental health should not be a struggle. In addition, as mental health issues are different for students from a non-Dutch background, an emphasis should be placed on hiring psychologists with a background in treating the mental health of at-risk groups.
8. Following Wageningen University’s lead, UG should be able to give all new students a housing guarantee in five years’ time.
SOG: The UG and Wageningen University differ too much from each other to make this comparison. The UG is currently working on creating a campus at Zernike, and there will probably be fewer students in the city next year due to the imminent return of the basic grant and an older generation of students leaving. The effects of this should be observed before anything else is done. It’s projected that the housing crisis will become less severe and that the influx of students will be manageable.
Calimero: We recognise that this is a challenging objective, but we agree that the UG should strive to achieve a housing guarantee for students. The housing crisis needs a structural solution so that students do not arrive here homeless.
DVS: Disagree. The university is an academic institution, not a housing association. The best thing the university can do is to make new students aware of the fact that when they are admitted to university, this does not immediately mean that they are guaranteed living space.
Doughnut Party: Agree. The accommodation should be in proximity to the university and provide a sufficient living standard. As for the transitory period, access to housing for incoming students should be improved (such as a priority list).
9. The university should only serve vegetarian food in cafeterias and at events.
SOG: It’s important to always provide good vegetarian and vegan options. But students should have the freedom to choose their own diet. SOG wants students to focus on a healthy lifestyle. We want to ensure that any animal products being served are as sustainable as possible and that there is room for animal well-being.
Calimero: We agree from both a sustainability and an ethical standpoint that events should only serve vegetarian food unless participants specifically request otherwise. Cafeterias should strive to include more vegetarian options into their menus, but still have non-vegetarian alternatives available. Students should be satisfied with the food that they receive, but the university should always keep its carbon footprint in mind.
DVS: Disagree. More vegetarian and vegan options are always welcome. There are many students who do not eat meat. However, there is also a very large group that does feel the need to eat meat and would like to. By offering both meat, vegetarian and vegan options, you are not restricting anyone in their freedom of choice of food.
Doughnut Party: Agreed, but the option to serve meat/fish should also be available at an additional cost. In addition, the goal should be to source the meat from organic farms.
10. The university should provide free menstrual products in all her buildings, just like it provides toilet paper everywhere.
SOG: The university should invest in free menstruation products. People can’t control their biological processes and shouldn’t miss classes because they’re menstruating. It’s also important that students who can’t afford it have access to these products. While it wouldn’t be a costly investment for the university, it would mean a lot to students.
Calimero: We agree strongly with the idea to provide free period products in all university buildings. These are basic sanitary products and providing them is a small gesture from the university which makes a big difference to accommodate students.
DVS: Disagree. Obviously, it’s very annoying if you don’t have any sanitary products on you when you need it, but we do not see it as the university’s responsibility to facilitate this. We think the idea of trays in the bathrooms where people can put their own things when they have taken something out is a very good system. We would certainly encourage the university to facilitate this type of tray and distribute it throughout the university.
Doughnut Party: Absolutely. A no-brainer, really. It is part of a woman’s basic health standard to have access to and receive free menstrual products.