Council elections have started: this is what’s at stake

Will first-year students have to sign a social contract? How can the university guarantee social safety for its students? Should the UG keep spending money on loss-making ventures at the university?

These are just a few examples of the issues the university council focused on this past academic year. Issues that concern all students. Issues that you as a student can impact by voting for one of the student candidates up for election this week. 

The election started on Monday, so UKrant is once more explaining what’s at stake, and what you can do by voting a student onto the university council. 

Social safety

One thing you can impact is the social safety for students. The council picked up on the issue due to a memo written by Lijst Calimero and Studenten Organisatie Groningen (SOG). The parties had received ‘concerning signals’ about the lack of help in various cases of inappropriate behaviour and wanted to make sure that students could talk about sexual harassment and violence. 

Because the student parties on the council defended student issues, the UG board finally saw how big a problem it really was. The board implemented the recommendations from the memo and has been organising more active bystander workshops, is working on an awareness campaign and improving information, and is researching the possibility of a centralised hotline to report inappropriate behaviour.

Criticism

In addition to raising issues themselves, the student parties are also allowed to express criticism at the board’s plans. That happened recently when the council discussed the plans for a ‘social contact’ for first-year students. 

The UG’s board of directors views this contract as a way to tell students what kind of behaviour is expected of them in the hopes that first-year students who sign it are more aware of how they conduct themselves, thereby decreasing nuisance complaints.

However, the student parties feel the UG is overstepping in this issue. Signing a contract sounds like a forceful action that could have consequences. Besides, it would concern how students behave themselves outside the walls of the university, something the UG has no authority over. 

During council meetings, the board acknowledged that the word ‘contract’ might have been too suggestive. The board also said the implications of signing such a document should be investigated further. 

Vote down plans

A revised version of the plans for a social contract will be discussed during a council meeting in June and presented for the council’s approval. If the plans have not changed enough for their liking, the council members can vote it down. This is not unusual. In December, the council put a stop to the plans to fund an ill-considered VentureLab.

The council didn’t think a VentureLab, where students and PhD candidates can get a taste of what being an entrepreneur would be like, in and of itself was a bad idea. But VentureLab had been created at the University of Groningen Centre for Entrepreneurship (UGCE) seven years ago, and the centre hadn’t been able to create any lasting partnerships during that time.

Who was going to pay for VentureLab if the 1.4 million euro grant the UGCE received from the Nationaal Programma Groningen run out in three years? How is it supposed to attract enough participants in the future, when the numbers that had been estimated were never attained? Would the VentureLab be able to finance itself?

Course correction

The board attempted to answer these questions through various versions of a business plan, but fell short each time. Even after hours of discussing the final iteration of the plan, the council wasn’t convinced. They felt the money would be better spent elsewhere. After that, the board decided to no longer use public funds for the project. 

By being critical, the council with support of its student factions effect a course correction of the board of directors. This is a job they undertake with each new meeting. And it’s a job each student can help them with by voting for one of the student candidates this week. 


University elections

From May 16 through May 20, the university elections will take place. This year only the student section of both the university council and each faculty council will be re-elected. This also means that only students will be voting this year.

During the week of the election, all students will receive a call to vote by email. In that email, students can use a link to the voting portal, which they can only access if they first log in through their university account. In the voting portal they can elect both a candidate for the university council and a candidate for their respective faculty council.

The results of the elections will follow on Monday, May 23.

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