Co-optation complaints desk must not lead to witch hunt

| Rense Kuipers

The action plan for co-optation put together by Vechtdal Wonen is the right way forward, according to both the University Council and the Executive Board. However, this morning the council expressed its concerns about the intended 'platform' for reporting abuse. 'Don't look for fire where there is no smoke.'

Photo by: RIKKERT HARINK

Maarten Bonnema (UReka) wondered this morning: the intended system with which room seekers can report abuse, what will it look like? Can someone publicly shame a student house, or will the residents be given the opportunity to defend themselves?

And, because there are always two sides to a story, his fellow party member Alina Ritter added: 'What if you get a situation where the word of one room seeker is opposed to the word of 24 residents? There absolutely must be objectivity, independence and clarity to prevent any wrongdoing.'

‘No blaming and shaming’

What would such a complaints desk look like? Executive Board vice-president Mirjam Bult was largely unable to answer that question, although she did wholeheartedly agree with the aim of objectivity, independence and clarity. 'The function of the platform is to ensure that people can raise issues, it should not become a blaming and shaming platform, or a way to bypass communication with housemates.' Richard Ditzel, an employee of the housing corporation who joined the meeting, added: 'We haven't worked out what the platform should look like yet. Although I don't expect it to have such a public character. In case of serious accusations, we will have to start a conversation with those involved.'

Trust

Lefika Otisitswe of student party uTOP suspects that not everyone will be so quick to sound the alarm. 'Especially international students do not complain because they think the situation will not improve anyway. If De Veste finds a house that discriminates, they need to have a clear policy of measures ready.'

Dirk Koelewijn of DAS only partly agreed. He is afraid of a witch hunt. 'I would urge you to refrain from actively looking for cases, but to start where the complaints are. Do not look for fire where there is no smoke.' Bonnema added: 'Trust students to act honestly and with integrity. That should be the basis.'

Bult agreed. Trust ís our basis. What Lefika points out is that not everyone deals with problems in the same way. You have to take intercultural differences into account.

Room-seeking season

Time will tell what will happen with the co-optation system. One thing that both the University Council and the Executive Board feel must be improved is communication. The UT is working with the housing corporation on an awareness campaign about room searching and the co-optation system, but the campaign is not expected to start until August. And that is far too late, said Koelewijn. 'The room-seeking season actually starts now.' His party member Saikiran Samudrala added: 'The problem is so serious that some prospective students do not even know what co-option is.

Bult's and Ditzel's answers revealed that, for the time being, there is no room for more than minor improvements in communication.  The Roomspot website, for example, has already been updated with more information about the co-optation system, Ditzel said. 'But a campaign is more than that,' Bult added. 'The entire communication must be in line with each other and we want to make sure that all voices are heard. We can't do something like that in a hurry.'