New parties want to be on the council

In addition to SOG, Calimero, and DAG, several new parties also tried to get a seat on the University Council. De Vrije Student is an offshoot of the VVD youth party. The One Man Gang is lobbying for free hot water.
By Lucia Grijpink / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

De Vrije Student will fight for flexible studying, so students will pay per course rather than for an entire year of tuition. ‘We think a student benefits just as much from studying as they would working on a board for a year, doing an internship, or focusing on their athletic career’, says party leader Nard Willemse. ‘You have to take into consideration whether or not you’re going to pass all your courses or not, so you can take the opportunity.’

De Vrije Student was founded in Amsterdam, where its students have a seat on the UvA’s university council, and they are running in Utrecht as well this year. All their different branches promote flexible studying, but they each have their own programme as well. Willemse: ‘In Groningen we are also fighting for sustainability and cheaper catering. Those aren’t issues in our other cities. But we do exchange information and lobby in The Hague. This way, we are seen as a single party.’


De Vrije Student was founded in 2015 by the VVD’s youth party, the JOVD. This means there are quite a few people from the JOVD up for election in Groningen. But according to its president Reender Reenders, the two are no longer connected. ‘We don’t want national politics to be involved in university politics, after all.’

The JOVD did offer De Vrije Student money when they were just starting out, but the party refused this offer. ‘We want to be independent, and as such we’ve tried to involve as many people outside the JOVD to be in the board and up for election’, says Reenders.

De Vrije Student will be facing off against another new party: the One Man Gang, which consists of 21-year-old Ruben Tan. The international and European law student is half Dutch, half Malaysian. He moved to the Netherlands to study three years ago. His slogan: Grab ‘em by the policy.

Tan’s views are simpler than those of De Vrije Student. Hot water used to be free, but now it costs fifty cents. He spent the first semester of this year abroad and when he returned he suddenly had to pay. ‘I was quite upset. Our studying environment should not be subject to exploitative pricing.’

Smoking area

He also disagrees with the smoking ban on the UB’s roof. It’s not effective and mainly leads to a mess. ‘The new smoking ban has not deterred any smokers’, says Tan. ‘Now that the ashtrays are gone, the UB entrance is filth.’ Ideally, he would like to see one of the balconies become a smoking zone.

Lastly, he is dissatisfied with student representation in general. ‘Existing student organisations are only visible during campaign periods and students rarely see change that they really want to see.’ The One Man Gang aims to change this, and has created an Instagram account where students can air their grievances.

Tan thinks he stands a pretty good chance. Even if he wins more than one seat in the election, he says he will take up only one in the council. ‘That would be hypocritical. I don’t think you need a large group of people to organise things. A single person is much more transparent.’


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