DAG is not a consumer organisation

We promise...

The Democratic Academy Groningen is the new student party participating in the university elections for the first time in May. DAG is not concerned with study spaces or electrical outlets. We are in need of some substance, says party leader Jasper Been.
By Nicole Aldershof / Photo Reyer Boxem / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The Democratic Academy Groningen (DAG) was founded on 16 March, after a symposium on the ‘cultural constriction’ of the philosophy programme.

DAG describes itself as a ‘critical student movement focused on far-reaching democratisation at the University of Groningen’.

DAG feels that the current student parties are inane and superficial. According to them, there is need of a ‘political fight for fundamental values’.

The university has become a business, its rector a top manager with a matching salary, and scientists have become research machines and students have been reduced to consumers, says DAG.

The University Council elections will be held from 15 to 19 May.

Is it DAG as in hello, or goodbye (ed.: in Dutch, dag is a form of greeting)?

‘We intend to stick around for a long time. So it’s neither, really. DAG represents our ideals. These are the issues we want to discuss.’

Apart from DAG’s party leader, you are also members of DWARS, GroenLinks’ youth organisation. Are you the new Jesse Klaver?

‘Not if I can help it. I’m more a fan of Halsema (he points to a picture of Famke Halsema on the wall of his student room). She is the reason I joined GroenLinks’ youth party. Especially the way she spoke: she was so earnest and full of ideals. She didn’t play games.’

Are you like that, too?

‘I hope so. We want to inspire people, because that’s currently lacking the University Council. The other parties all talk about more electrical outlets or study spaces. We want to discuss the bigger issues.’

In general, less than thirty percent of people vote in the university elections. Do students even want to think about these bigger themes, you think?

‘I think the turnout is so low because none of the choices are any good. How can you disagree with more electrical outlets and study spaces?’

You think that’s the reason students don’t vote?

‘I do. We’re talking about university students here. They’re very critical. Once we start discussing these bigger issues again, such as Yantai or the Anglicisation of the university, then people will know what to vote for. We feel there are currently parties on the Council that raise the quality of education and the value of diplomas. They assume that students are here just to buy a diploma and that we therefore have the right to the best possible diploma. They’re more consumer organisations than political parties.’

Could you explain that?

‘When you say we need more theses written in collaboration with businesses, like Calimero is saying, that constitutes a fundamental vision of the university. It says that the interests of universities are the same as those of businesses. We want to discuss these fundamental issues. Are the interests of universities similar to those of businesses? Why should we all speak English? Should universities keep growing, growing, growing?’

Is there a subject DAG won’t compromise on?

‘Democratisation. Not just the University Council, but instructors, programmes and faculty councils should get a bigger say in things. That means that rather than being allowed to make their remarks at the end, they should be included in things from day one. They should be allowed to help make decisions and have the right to consent at the end of the process.’

Can you give an example?

‘Yantai. The Council has the right to consent when it comes to Yantai and we’ll be voting against it. We won’t compromise on it. The same goes for the clustering plans at the Arts Faculty.’

But you’ve already compromised by agreeing with the SOG and Lijst Calimero factions to publish your party programmes at the same time…

‘That was a decision made by SOG and Lijst Calimero, because last year’s party programmes were all so similar.’

So do you set your own course or not?

‘We do, by not publishing our programme. We have to be able to do it right. We want to make sure everything is complete first.’

You want fewer things to be discussed behind closed doors. How will you effect this change?

‘So many discussion topics in the University Council are currently labelled “confidential”. We don’t want things we need to make decisions on to be confidential.’

And if they are? Will you call the Universiteitskrant to leak?

‘No, we won’t be leaking information. But we will tell the outside world if we feel too many things are made confidential.’

Those are words, not action, though.

‘The University Council is a means to an end. We want to use the right of initiative to make sure that everything is discussed in the university council meetings.’

What will that look like?

‘We want the Board to answer to more. They need to provide more insight. We’re going to be asking many questions and we demand answers. We want the managers to be clearer about what they believe in. That’s transparency.’

And you’ll make sure that students can count on these things happening?

‘We promise.’




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