De Vrije Student: “vote for flexible studying”

From the 13th until the 17th of May, you can vote for the University Council. Last year the Vrije Student (Free Student) was eligible for the first time and you may know them from their slogan ‘Maak je hard voor Nard’ (Dutch joke: ‘Making it hard for Nard’) This year their posters read ‘Vote for flexible studying’, ‘For a sustainable university’ and ‘For an innovative university’. These are their three most important standpoints. I interviewed Dylan Gerding, the public face of the student party.

What are your most important standpoints?
We have three main standpoints. The first one is flexible studying. This means paying per course. It is very important to be doing things next to your studies, like committees. When you know beforehand that you’ll only get 30 ECT’s, because you’re doing a board year or internship, you only have to pay for the courses you’re following. Right now, you’d have to pay the full course fee as someone who’s taking all of the courses. I believe students should be able to choose their own paths.

The next one is innovative studying. We think we should use all the opportunity’s this digital era is offering us. This includes online lectures and readers and will make you able to watch your lectures in the train on the way to your internship.

Lastly, we want the university to become more sustainable. There’s so much more to gain in that area and we think the university should be an example in this.

What should be more sustainable about the university?
The university has many buildings, which are generally old and drafty, and in a bad shape. We want that these buildings are made energy neutral or as sustainable as possible, when these buildings are renovated.

There’s also a lot going wrong in the ‘paper waste-area’. You need to get readers for courses, which are always printed out. You get 250 printed pages and I don’t need that. I would rather have them digitally, that’s way more sustainable. It’s a shame that there’s no option for getting a digital version when you’re ordering your reader.

The standpoints between the student parties are quite similar. What make the Vrije Student different?
There are a lot of similarities between the parties, but there are some small differences in how they want to achieve their goals. We are the only one which is actively pleading for flexible studying. Also, Nard, who’s in the university council on behalf of us this year, made sustainability a real theme in the strategic plan of the RUG. We want to distinguish ourselves by actively pleading for these subjects.

What do you mean by actively? Are there any things which are not done actively in the council?
At the moment you only see the university council members during the elections and once they’re elected for the council, you never hear from them again. What happens in the council and which goals are achieved seem very vague and that needs to change.

We need to make sure that students feel like they have a voice. Also, it has to be more clear what the effect of the university council is. I think it is a shame that a lot of the things that happen in the council are not brought to the attention of the students. That should be done more and better.

In which way would you change this?
By involving the students all year. You need to actively approach people and show the things you do on social media. You can really get people more involved with the university council. We really have influence in the council, and it makes quite a difference if it’s me sitting there, or someone from DAG. Not only in idea’s, but also the mindset is different. I think it is important that all students are represented and you won’t achieve that when only 20% of the students vote.

What do you want to achieve in the council this year?
Get flexible studying on the agenda. There’s already a test run at some universities, like in Amsterdam, which seem very successful, but the RUG is still not participating.

Also, I want to see more educational innovation. For example, Harvard and Oxford put their lectures online and it would be good if the RUG could include these lectures in their courses.

Flexible studying is my number one issue. Of course we need to be realistic and I am not sure if we’ll be able to realize this in one year, but the university should actively try to implement it. The RUG has to give students the space to set up their study year the way they want.

Does it matter who we vote for from your candidates?
We’ve got 60 amazing, diverse candidates from philosophy to fiscal law. I would advise voting for someone who’s active at your faculty. If you’re not sure which person you should vote for, then there’s always the number one on the list.

You can find all standpoint for the Vrije Student here. Check our site for interviews with all the other student parties participating in the elections.