A week ago, the new members of the University Council were announced to be Abdurrahman Calkin and Luc Oudenes. But what is that? After the Education Committee and the Faculty Council, it's time to introduce the University Council!
Who of you guys knows what the University Council is? That was my standard opening question in lecture rooms when I was campaigning for the Council roughly two years ago. Very few hands were raised at those moments. We are not as well known as we would like to be, but are important nonetheless. In this article therefore, I would like to tell you a few bits and pieces of my own two year experience in the council in order to encourage you to become more involved with our university’s politics.
Let’s start with the formal parts of the University Council’s job. Our council consists of 12 students and 12 staff members, elected on annual and bi-annual basis respectively from all the different faculties. In contrast to other councils throughout the country, our council does not have a political party system: members are elected per faculty on personal title. This means that each faculty has one or two student members that represent their fellow students. With (a part of) that council we meet every week: twice a month with the student section and once a month with either the Personnel, Facilities and Organisational (PFO) Committee or the Education, Research and Student (ERS) Committee, and once a month with the Board of Directors. In addition, a few other committees and workgroups exist, like FIN for financial affairs, IEB for internal and external communication and the Presidium as daily board. Those committees have separate tasks and/or advise other committees on specific topics. The meeting with the Board of Directors is at the end of the month, during which we formally make decisions on for example the budget, reorganizations, new studies or buildings plans. After that, a new monthly cycle starts and new documents and topics are discussed.
Next to that formal role, the Council is active behind the scenes. Having informal meetings, which is surprisingly easy in Rotterdam, is sometimes a lot more effective than all formal discussions, documents and decisions combined. Deans, members of the Board of Directors and many other employees are more than willing to have a coffee session or lunch with a council member to discuss issues that are relevant for students or staff. To name a few: a coffee session with Rector Magnificus Huibert Pols early in the morning to discuss the possibilities of an exam free week for all students at the same time (done), a session with chairman of Erasmus Sport Jon de Ruijter to talk about a swimming pool on campus (probably not going to happen) and various lunches with the chairmen of teacher training bureau RISBO to discuss improvements in education (work in progress). After a short time in the Council you quickly notice that staff members are open to suggestions and discussions in order to improve our university.
With all those formal and informal meetings and discussions, the University Council can and does make a difference. Sometimes small, like longer opening hours of computer rooms and the university library, sometimes large, like the Erasmus Language Sharing initiative and an improved ‘profileringsfonds’ that supports both students with disabilities as well as compensates student organisation board members.
Now you know. Next year I won’t be member of the University Council anymore, but I am glad to have Abdurrahman Calkin and Luc Oudenes as my successors. So don’t be afraid to stalk them with all your ideas on improving our university. And maybe, in the future, become active in the student representation yourself.
University council 2014-2015|2015-2016