Press F to pay respects

| Luuk van der Werf

Last Wednesday a new column was published on the website of U-Today. Normally I enjoy reading these columns, but this time I was not amused with what I read. Of course, some columns are meant to cause some friction, but this whole column felt like a backstab to all current and former board members, which includes me. A backstab to people that voluntarily work or worked a year hard to make our university a better place.

Applied Mathematics student Luuk van der Werf wrote this opinion piece in response to the column by Niels ter Meer.

It begins with the part about accusing boards of nepotism when it comes to choosing successors. The author states that the new board members often come from the same ‘clique’, but there is a very logical reason for this. Most of the time the people most suited for a board position are the most active members of the association. This means – surprise – that they have a lot of contacts in the association which includes the current board members. Also, the board only picks candidates for the next board, but the GMA (General Members Assembly) still needs to approve them, and can also suggest different candidates if they want to. So far for the alleged nepotism in the associations.

After that, the author suggests the new board members have ‘no idea what they are doing’ when they start off, but if everything went well, they should have been showed the ropes by their predecessors. For most people doing a board year at a study association is their first encounter with board work, so it is not strange they do not know everything yet. Doing a board year is a perfect opportunity to learn all kinds of extracurricular skills, and nobody (except the author maybe) expects you to know everything already. Luckily, every association has an advisory council and an auditing committee that can help you out with almost anything.

The author also writes that (former) board members often end up in ‘lobbying positions’ such as the faculty councils. This is true, but not because of the reasons the author implies. It’s namely very logical that (former) board members end up in the councils. Ask yourself: what people would spend a large portion of their spare time to make the university a better place? Exactly, the people that already spent a year on these topics and even want to do more. Also, the faculty councils are democratically chosen by elections among the students themselves! Again, no place for nepotism. And of course faculties list board experience as a plus. These people already know a bit more about how the university functions, which can be very useful in a hard-to-understand world as the faculty council is.

Then the author claims that study associations ‘lost their vision’ by focussing too much on social activities and ‘forgetting what they were established for’. This is inherently wrong. Almost all the study associations were founded to support students during their study time, also explicitly by organising social activities. Also, still every association has an officer of educational affairs, who puts a lot of effort, often full-time, into improving the quality of education. Making sure the quality of education is on point is of course the task of the study programme, and not of the study association, but still the associations put a lot of effort in making sure the opinions of the students are heard.

The author suggests to ‘implement ‘lobbying rules’; prioritizing those who haven’t served on association boards for student-filled positions’. In practice this would mean that a lot of useful experience gets lost, if you actually accomplish to fill the positions with these rules. The author also writes that full-timers hate on part-timers, but I am really interested in how he got this idea. From what I have seen full-timers really admire and respect part-timers. It’s quite remarkable that they manage to run an association while some of them accomplish to get 60 (!) EC in the meantime.

In general, I would say: have some more respect for board members. They voluntarily put a year of their time into making the campus a better place. Without them, the University of Twente would be a dull place. In times where students are under high pressure to finish their studies as quickly as possible it is a bold choice to become a board member, full-time or part-time. If you see a board member give them a compliment, instead of bashing them.

So, instead of ‘pressing F to doubt’ I would suggest pressing F to pay some respects to our board members.

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