| Niels ter Meer

The ET faculty intends to award subsidies to study associations based on their headcount. Student columnist Niels ter Meer thinks that pretending headcount is a good metric does not do justice to students that are not as well represented by those same associations.


A couple of weeks ago, when I was bored, I decided to read the general assembly documents, as you do — or is that just me? Regardless, my eye fell on a passage discussing the faculty subsidy. A subsidy which is awarded by headcount. Which leaves an awful aftertaste. Let me explain why.

To me, the idea of an association is that a group of people come together — or associate — in furtherance of a common goal. With a study association, I suppose that would be to act at the behest of its members in their interests. When everyone involved enters into it freely, with the same interests, this balances the internal dynamics of the association. But when you, along with a couple hundred mostly disinterested individuals, are funnelled into an association by an external party, that balance breaks down.

Which is the case, as far as I know, for most study associations here. The programme Kick-In is often delegated to the study association. The association then doesn’t act as a neutral organizer, but happily uses this opportunity to entice naive first years with free coffee and cheaper books to sign on the dotted line. Their programmes, in some sense, prop them up.

The dependence on one’s study association for books is not the only way they’re propped up. The exam library is another example. It is a seemingly tolerated copyright infringement scheme, set up by the association, to provide their members with a slew of older exams for study. This quickly turns into a convenient excuse for staff not to provide sample exams they are mandated to, or even learning material in general. ‘You can just look in the exam library.’

If study associations would have been reserved in their actions, all of this might not have been such a problem. But most don’t seem to operate like that; instead they act at the behest of the small minority. Internationals, first-generation students, or others who for some reason don’t tend to thrive within their internal cultures are barely represented. Yet the university, through her faculty and staff, act as if they do.

Which points straight at the problem: the presupposition that the study association acts in the interest of all her members. I only gave a couple of examples of the tight intermingling of study programme and study associations, which brings me to the title: collaborusion. With a naturally formed and freely entered-into study association, it’s natural for a study programme to collaborate with it. But current practice tends more to collusion in the colloquial sense. It works well for either party, so there’s no force for change for the better.

By pretending that a study association’s headcount is a good metric for its subsidy eligibility, the faculty is not doing justice to the remaining students who are not are not as aligned with the study associations. Headcount presumes a relatively ‘flat’ representation, which is not reflected in practice. I’m afraid most of the subsidy will probably end up working for that small minority. By not piercing the association’s veil, the faculty is not doing her due diligence, and inadvertently keeping those power structures and imbalance alive. I think they should do better.

Given that the contract has not been signed yet, perhaps they still can?

Stay tuned

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.