Maastricht: A Divided and Transient City for Students?
On Monday 22nd January, MaasX organised an open evening named “Maastricht- What’s up Democracy?” for members of the Maastricht community to come together to discuss a number of contentious issues that have surfaced.
Why are they doing this? Well, the local elections are coming up on March 21 and there is a general feeling in the air that not enough people are aware of what is going on. Voters do not necessarily know their voting rights or even what they are voting on or for, and the provided platforms are not necessarily in touch with what their electorate would like to see. MaasX organised an evening in an attempt to bridge this divide.
Who was involved? Well, a few of the more prominent groups were Mosaiek Magazine, a FASoS publication aimed at documenting student life, the Green Office of Maastricht, the University Housing Helpdesk, and Starters Valley, a group that in concerned with creating opportunity for startups in Maastricht. Of course, students and locals of Maastricht were also involved in getting their voices heard. While it was perhaps not an evening as well attended as MaasX would have preferred, it is my belief that a lot of interesting points came up. To begin with, MaasX divided us all up into different tables with different topics on offer to see what came out. As could be expected, these topics were related to aforementioned associations and groups. However, what came out was perhaps not anticipated but not necessarily surprising. It would seem that, in Maastricht, there is a societal polarization between the student body and the local community and within the student population as well. Considering that the student body comprises of 1/6th of the total population, I find this to be an alarming situation. Forget about the possibility of swinging a vote one way or another in the elections, there is a real prospect for the students to make a lasting impact on the social scene in this city. Moreover, the lack political involvement in the city’s affairs is testified by the 47% students’ turnout in the last municipal elections held in 2014. A divide exists, this is an issue that came up time and again during the course of the evening and in fact has been reported to come up in casual conversation on a regular basis.