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The Maastricht Diplomat

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inside the UC: what will your vote do?

Updated: Apr 20

Whether it be free condoms or free coffee, the campaigning for the university council (UC) sure takes up a lot of space within buildings of Maastricht University (UM). But does anyone know what they actually do? Well, we didn’t until we started going to their public meeting every two weeks back in November. Now that the parties are finalizing their list of representatives, we, the Maastricht Diplomat, think that it is time to dive back into the politics of the university and understand what your vote does. 

What is the university council?  

The university council is defined by the University  as a “sounding board for the Executive Board” and “ is involved in assessment and monitoring of new policies and initiatives and may submit proposals for new initiatives”. It is the representative body of the university, in charge of approval and advising of the people in charge. In essence, the student representatives that you elect act there as intermediaries between the student body and the policies of the university. 

The UC comprises 20 elected staff and student representatives, divided into three committees: strategy, research and education, and operations. To give you an idea, here is a little visual representation of its inner working: 

When you elect a student representative, they sit on both the plenary session- once every month- and their committee session- once a month as well. Hence, the MD had the chance to attend a session every two weeks- more or less. All of those sessions are carefully detailed in advance, and everyone can access the agenda of those meetings on ibabs (id and password are ‘burger’ in case you would want to access it;). The sessions include a public part,  as well as a confidential part. The public part always comprises a “speaker’s quarter”: if you have something to discuss with the executive board, you will be able to make your voice heard by the higher ups in the University. This year, many discussions and questions brought up by the participants concerned the Israel-Palestine question and the university’s stance. 

In practice, what does it do? 

The UC discusses policies held and specific actions taken by the university, from email communication, to change of executive staff or online tools, educational programs, inclusion problems, and accessibility… You may find the main points discussed in 2022-2023 on the poster released, which you might have seen around. So now, how does it work? 

Let’s take a look at a recent chatting point; the question of internationalization.  On the 8th of February, UM students received an email from Communication UM about the universities’ measures of action concerning internationalization. If you missed it, the main point of the e-mail consisted firstly of the temporary stop of new english-taught programs. This was because the Dutch government ought to strengthen the Dutch language and manage the influx of international students. This therefore prompted a cascade of protocol points.

On November 22nd, 2023, the council raised concerns about language policies within the university in case of governmental actions. The executive board (Rianne Letschert, Nick Bos and Pamela Habibovic) vaguely stated that policies would be prepared, but no rules were given yet on a national level and so there was no need to panic. The question of limiting the number of international students was already talked about, so as to not deteriorate the current standards. Yet, nothing was clearly changed. 

Two weeks later, during the presentation of the 2024 budget at the operation committee, concerns were raised by staff members as to how the discussions about internationalization were reflected. Since government talks were not public yet, the executive board responded with reassurance, stating that still nothing was set in stone and so there was no need to represent them within the budget. 

On February 21st, 2024, internationalization still prevailed as the main topic of discussion. The executive board emphasized the development of plans to preserve the omnipresent international community at Maastricht  University. Indeed, UM is composed of 57% of international students (2022 data), a community still growing everyday. Whether it is numerus fixus on programs taught in English or an open number of Dutch courses, several solutions to the government’s policies are being discussed. UM definitely realizes the benefit of international students, including in an economic aspect, but also tries to evaluate what would work best with the current new laws. And, in all of that, the student representatives try to promote your interests. That’s why your vote might change if not your future, that of the university. They ask questions, vote on decisions, and try to make the best changes with the current conditions. 

Like any other political body, it is true that the UC has not been without controversies. Last year for example, number of criticisms emerged on the lack of transparency. For what we could observe, it happens that the open part is rather short, due to a lack of points within the agenda, mostly placed in the private session. It also happened that some information could not be written yet. However, the UC seems to welcome us and the observant well, with a number of representatives being more than happy to talk to us and explain the inner-working. 

So… what now? 

Now that period 5 is starting, we are very close to election season. From the 22nd to the 25th of April, the voting will be open. That’s when you’ll get the daily interaction of someone asking whether you voted for the elections already, ready to get your vote. Make sure to look into the different parties and vote for the people who will truly represent you. All the lists of representatives have been published on the university website, with some names you might recognise. The four registered student representation associations are DOPE (Deskundige, Ongebonden, Pragmatische Eenheid, or Professional, Independent, Pragmatic Unity), ListLEX, KAN (Klimate Actie Netwerk, or working towards climate justice together) and NovUM

Maybe to some people’s disappointment, my goal is not to influence you. So check out their list, and make sure that whomever you elect has the right priorities for you. And on Friday the 19th of april, the debate between the candidates (Matthijs Udo for DOPE, Bram van den Berkmortel for ListLex, Krithik Rock for Kan and lastly, Amein Abid for NovUM ) should be released, helping you to make your choice. 

Your vote has an impact, even if it is not always easy to observe . So go to the polls- you have two votes, one for the UC talked about here but also one for your faculty’s representatives-, and we will report on the elections and their outcome on the 26th of April!


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