Every day, the editorial staff at the UK wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A weekly look behind the scenes.
About a month from now, between 15 and 19 May, University Council elections will be held. During that time, students and staff can head to the digital polling stations. There won’t be any long lines to contend with like there were during the Lower House elections a few weeks back: even online, the voter turnout has only been around 30 per cent for years.
University elections are not exactly a sexy topic. We can see that in our page views, too. Stories and articles on the topics are never among our best read stories.
Is that reason enough for us to leave the elections well enough alone? No, absolutely not. It’s our duty to cover them – and we do it with conviction.
That’s why we wrote a story this week about why the student party Lijst Sterk is calling it quits at the RUG and will not be participating in the University Council elections this year. We also reported on the founding of a new student party, the Democratic Academy Groningen (DAG).
On the RUG site, the following information on the upcoming elections can be found: ‘The participation councils are of great importance; they have a big influence on many issues that are important to students and staff, such as the budget, plans for the future and various student facilities.’
The Democratic Academy Groningen is not just interested in conversation: they want a little more action. According to them – and I quote – the university is a business; the rector is a manager with a salary to match; scientists are research factories; and students are consumers. And: ‘There is no longer any true sense of democracy, the real decisions have already been made long before they are openly discussed […], policy documents are classified […].’
The picture that DAG paints is a familiar one.
Here in the newsroom, we are seeing ever more policy documents that are labelled ‘classified’. Faculty and university council meetings are increasingly held behind closed doors.
In some cases, that can be explained because of what the topic at hand is (namely procurements and hiring or firing decisions), but there just as many cases where there is no good explanation.
DAG’s existence is breathing new life into the elections. And the UK will be covering it, whether it’s sexy or not. Democracy begins with engagement, and engagement begins with openness.
Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief