SOG: ”No matter what: vote!”

An interview with Marieke Klijnstra, the front-runner of SOG.

What is SOG’s message?
SOG has three main issues.

The first one is ‘active studying’, developing yourself next to your studies. We want everyone to have the opportunities for development, without the university holding your hand.

Furthermore, we care about the integration process of international students. How do you handle this well? And how do you deal with the integration between international and Dutch students? We shouldn’t see these two groups separately, but it’s more about integrating all the different cultural backgrounds.

Lastly: Sustainability.

Sustainability has two sides: caring for the environment and creating a sustainable environment within the university. Also, we want to create a sustainable diploma: are our diploma’s still useful in ten years and how can we guarantee high quality diploma’s?

Sounds good, having a valid diploma in ten years, but how would you realize this?
This is our most difficult issue. To realize this, you’d have to keep talking with the policy makers. So, not just maintaining contact with the university and the Executive Board, but also showing the government our idea’s as students and show that it is important to listen to us. I feel like the opinions of the students is oftentimes forgotten. But these are substantiated opinions, even though we don’t have diploma’s yet. Our first step is to work on this.

What do you generally do in the university council?
There are 12 staff members as representatives of the students and you have a meeting with the Executive Board 11 times a year. The Executive Board is the policy- and plan maker, but we as students can give our opinions and votes on these plans. The budget, for example: we can have a say in where the money goes. Our function is advisory, but we can always come up with our own idea’s. We are now working on a third resit for your exams. Next to that, it’s very important to keep talking with each other, so we can stop policies we don’t agree with. All in all our job is to stay in contact with everyone and to make sure you are heard and well informed about all the issues dealt with.

So you are checking the Executive Board in their policy making?
Yes, but they will have the final say. It’s very important to check them though, this keeps the board from becoming autocratic. Otherwise they could make decisions with bad consequences for students. Also, this has influence on how the university is rated and therefore on how much your diploma is worth for an employer.

What would you like to say to the students, why should they vote?
That brings me back to my own philosophy: ‘If you don’t vote, you can’t complain’. Personally, I find it very important for students to be heard, because policy makers haven’t been students for some time. Also, the life of students has changed so much these years, the guys from the board can barely compare the current situation to their own student life. We should really stay involved to make sure everyone can have a great student time. The only thing students have to do is take five seconds to check a box online and click confirm. I think it’s important to vote, whether that is on me or not. You need to use your right to vote.

I totally agree! And why should we vote on you?
Because I’ve got a fresh look at the university, mostly from my own experience the last years. Next to that I have a great team. Like I said, we have those three main issues for which the people before me laid a good basis and we want to continue working on that.

One last question: how are you campaigning?
This week is campaigning week and we have a quite traditional strategy. Most important for us is a sustainable campaign.

So, we won’t get any flyers from you?
Well, flyers are almost inescapable. We do use flyers, but way less than previous years. Normally we gave away gadgets, like pens and stickers, but we chose for sustainable pens and linen bags this year. You may find us at the faculty, but we are also campaigning on social media with the main focus on visibility and openness for conversation with everybody. Our goal is not to get people to vote for us, but to show people what we’re doing.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I think it is very important to vote for someone who gives you the right feeling. Of course there are a lot of student and it seems like one vote won’t make a difference, but every vote counts. So no matter what: vote!