Students & Council

Voting for Henk because Jan said so

Monday marks the start of the elections for the University Council, or ‘the RUG’s parliament’. But a survey conducted by the Universiteitskrant shows that students are not particularly eager to vote for the eligible parties SOG, Lijst Calimero, or DAG.
By Rob Siebelink / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen / Animation by Nicole Aldershof and Wouter Hoogland

On Monday, 15 May, the University Council elections are starting. They will last until Friday, 19 May.

Students can vote for either of three parties: SOG, Lijst Calimero or newcomer DAG.

Over the past few years, turnout among students was a scant 30 per cent.

It does not look like this year will bring any change. A poll conducted by the UK shows that 66 per cent of students will not bother to vote.

Most students say they will not be voting because they are unfamiliar with the University Council and the student parties’ views.

According to the UK poll, SOG will remain the biggest party.

Why will you be voting for the Student Organisation Groningen (SOG)? ‘Because I think the other two parties suck even harder.’ Why are you voting for Calimero? ‘Because Jan said Henk is in the party.’

These are just two of the answers from students on the survey the Universiteitskrant conducted in the run-up to the election for the RUG’s University Council.

Again and again, it shows that students do not really care about the elections. Two years ago, 30 per cent of the students filled out the digital ballot; last year, that number decreased by more than two per cent, to 27.9. ‘Outrageously low’, rector magnificus Elmer Sterken said of the low turnout at the time.


With the arrival of new student party DAG (Democratic Academy Groningen), which wants to prioritise ‘political business’ in the University Council, might that change this year? Will it mean no more ‘twaddle’ about matters everyone agrees on anyway, such as more study spaces and longer opening hours for the library, but rather focusing on issues DAG feels ‘truly impact’ students, like the continuing Anglicisation of the university and the RUG plans for a branch campus in the Chinese city of Yantai?

Unlikely, according to the UK survey that 400 students (300 Dutch and 100 internationals) at Zernike and the city centre filled in. Despite various attempts to increase their familiarity among students, as well as the involvement of students, the University Council remains a mysterious entity to them: 80 per cent do not even know what the Council is or does.

No idea

Two out of three students indicated they will not be voting this year (66 per cent). Out of this percentage, 40 per cent say they did not even know there were elections, and another 40 percent say they do not know the student parties’ positions or what they want. Approximately 11 per cent ‘don’t care about the elections’, while slightly less than 8 per cent are ‘just here to study’.

The UK poll reveals that SOG, which currently has six seats on the Council, will remain the biggest party. Out of all respondents, twelve per cent say they will vote for SOG. Lijst Calimero (which currently has five seats) trails behind at a respectable distance (5.1 per cent), and newcomer DAG comes in last (4.1 per cent). Lijst Sterk, which currently holds a single seat on the Council, will not return after the elections, as they are leaving the Council.

The UK also presented the students with a number of topics, partially based on the three parties’ platforms:


All RUG lectures should be in English


A RUG campus in the Chinese city of Yantai is a good idea


Exams should only be held during the day on weekdays, not at night or in the weekend


The RUG should offer free English classes for all students


The Board of Directors should be elected, not appointed



Among international students, the answers are even more starkly divided. Almost 76 per cent say they will not vote. Again, the foremost reasons to not vote are unfamiliarity with the elections and the parties’ views.

SOG is most well-known among students from abroad (34 per cent have heard of the party), and Calimero scores 25 per cent. DAG has some catching up to with internationals: less than 3.2 per cent have heard of the newcomer.


The ‘60s: a call for democracy

Democracy, participation, and openness at universities did not come naturally, but were hard-won. The 1960s were a time of major student protests, sit ins (see photo, occupation of the Maagdenhuis in 1969), and police confrontations. Students in Groningen also revolted in those years, strongly influenced by the Dutch Communist Party and the influential Groninger Student Union.



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