DAG: “We want to break the narrative that students don’t care”

From the 13th till the 17th of May it’s election time for students in Groningen again! We realize that this whole university election fuzz is all a bit vague, therefore we visited the board of all student organizations running for council this year. Today, we talked to the Democratic Academy Groningen, DAG. You might have heard about these guys last year: the sit-in in the Academy building, the massive couchsurfing action for homeless internationals in September, DAG was there to stand up for their ideals and to help out. This year, they’re running for the University Council again. This is what you need to know about DAG.

Hi Manu, how is your election campaign going so far?
we want to focus on the essentials.. We think this is not so easy on posters because you can’t put much content on there. We also just doubt the effectiveness of it. So in the following days you can see some content from us, like a podcast, on social media for example, because we want to provide more content and less publicity.

What are the bullet points of DAG?
Our fundamental principle is that the university should not be run as business. Next year, we’re gonna focus on holding the university more accountable for these principles. This means that when making worldwide advertisements for international students, we really want the RUG also to think about how much space is left for more internationals in the city. We believe that the university is indirectly responsible for the homeless students in Groningen, so we are holding them accountable for it.
Also, the university made a lot of promises about this year’s  lustrum. The topic is inclusiveness, so they want to start a conversation about inclusion. We want to see that conversation in real life and implemented in the university policy as well. We also want students to have a voice in that, but until now they have not been really able to express their view on inclusion and diversity.

The university council elections are not particularly well-known amongst students, why do you think it is still important for students to vote?
In every faculty- or council meeting in the university, the argument from the boards is always:  students are not involved, so why should we more of a say? But we think that is tricky, because if students don’t really get a voice, there is nothing at stake for them of course. Most of the time even the council only has an advisory or consent role or something. We want to have a cut in this narrative that students don’t care, because I think that students do care. We need to show that by showing up at the election.

What are your goals for the coming year?
On the one hand: responsible internationalization. On the other hand: responsible inclusion. This means we want to raise awareness about the systemic issues at hand. For example: the RUG has 79% male professors. This has been talked about a lot, but  now we want to see action.
Also, we want responsible spending of educational funds. We discovered that 70.000 euros of educational funds were spent on the farewell party of board members last year, while the ministry of education suggests a maximum of 24.000. We want the university to be more accountable for this huge discrepancy.

Who do you see as your biggest rival this year, and why?
To be honest, it’s not even the other students running for council. Our biggest rival is that managerial voice from the university that says that students are not involved. Our biggest rival really is this narrative that students don’t care.