UG hopes to curb student disturbances with ‘social contract’ for first-years

Starting next year, first-year students might be required to sign a ‘social contract’. The UG, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, and the municipality hope to curb disturbances caused by students this way.

It’s not yet been announced what the contract will entail and what rules the students would have to obey. But the UG wants to use the contract to send a clear message about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, said rector Cisca Wijmenga.

‘They are both students and residents of the city. That should inform their behaviour. It’s time we properly express the behavioural rules that we have’, said Wijmenga.

Support and criticism

The plans were discussed during Thursday’s university council meeting, where it received support as well as criticism.  

‘The word contract insinuates some sort of binding agreement about how students are supposed to behave’, said Onno de Wal with student party Studenten Organisatie Groningen (SOG). Since a behavioural code and a student statute already exist, he wasn’t sure what this other document would have to add.

Forceful

SOG worried that a ‘social contract’ goes beyond just informing students of the university’s norms and values. 

‘This proposal in conjunction with the municipality and the Hanze concerns itself with how students in the city behave. It feels forceful to me to make students sign something that pertains to their lives outside the university walls.’ The party felt that part of student life isn’t the university’s responsibility.

Liveable

While Wijmenga acknowledged that the word contract ‘suggests something that isn’t there’, she feels it’s important that new students are made aware that the city should remain liveable.

Besides, said board president Jouke de Vries, the university council does expect the UG board to act whenever something happens regarding social safety. ‘If we have to take disciplinary action, it would be good to have something to fall back on.’

Construction

Nevertheless, the council members took issue with the proposed construction. ‘It’s important to raise awareness’, said Floor Kuiper ‘But I’m not sure we should make students sign anything. Would they be obligated to sign such a contract? Are there consequences if they refuse? And what happens if they sign it, but don’t comply with the rules?’

The university said these are questions that all need answering. A work group will focus on working out the details. This might mean the term ‘social contract’ could change. The UG board expects a full proposal in June.

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