24 Nov Special report I: What’s a faculty student council?
Last year, I was just a blogger on What The Faculty, now I am a member of the Faculty Student Council and a blogger on What The Faculty. It makes me feel like a double agent. A double agent infiltrating a group to provide vulnerable information to his superiors. In this blog, I will return from the Student Council room (A1.26) to the headquarters of What The Faculty to report my observations. But first, allow me to introduce you to the history of student democracy and the birth of Faculty Student Councils.
What’s a Faculty Student Council and why do we have a Faculty Student Council? Most people consider the May 1968 student strikes in Paris at the University of Nanterre and Sorbonne as a starting point of democratisation of universities . The students complained about a lack of freedom and democracy and went on strike together with labour unions. One year later, UvA students occupied the Maagdenhuis, where the board of directors was settled. Students all over Europe demanded for more democracy and freedom at universities in the late sixties. These protests would prove to be the start of student democracy in universities.
The birth of our student councils
As a response to the growing demand for more democracy in the policy making of universities, the Dutch minister of education, Gerard Veringa, proposed a new law, translated as: “Modernisation of University Policy making”. From 1970 and onward, universities were governed by a university council consisting of students, staff and non-academic personnel. Members of the the board of directors, responsible for the execution of the policy, were also members of this council. However, the councils were considered ineffective and unstructured. Therefore, a new law was proposed to deal with the ineffectiveness of the democratic councils. In 1997, the minister of education, Jo Ritzen, reformed the democratic structure of universities once more. The board of directors was no longer a part of the university council and university employees and students were divided into two separate advising organs. This diminished the direct influence of employees and students and it increased the power (or effectiveness) of the board of directors.
Modern student councils
Despite the common feeling that student councils are less influential than they once were, student councils still exist and they are influential. Every university in the Netherlands is obliged to have at least one student council. The UvA has chosen to translate this plight to two types of student councils operating at different levels: A university student council (CSR), representing all students of the UvA, and several Faculty Student Councils (FSR). The FSR discusses policy initiated by the dean and the directors of education (Faculty Board) and the FSR has a voice in their proposals. Depending on the nature of the proposal, the FSR has the right to give an advice or the right to veto a proposal. If the FSR advises something to the Faculty Board, the Faculty Board must always provide a reaction. This makes the FSR a controlling organ. If the reaction of the Faculty Board is insufficient or illegitimate, the FSR has the right to start a juridical procedure. Fortunately, the FSR and the Faculty Board live on pretty good terms with one another and juridical procedures are seldom started at our Faculty.
In part II we are going to take a look at the lives of student representatives and how you can become one of them!
Bye for now,