Party program

Party program

'It is not our differences that divide us. It is out inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate our differences'
(Audrey Lorde, 1986, Our dead behind us: poems)

UvASociaal Party programme 2016- 2017

Preface

Two years after the Maagdenhuisbezetting the UvA is still not where it needs to be. Whilst some groups in the university are working on democratisation and diversity more needs to be done. With a recurring national trend around more selectivity in higher education, a university wide backlash on diversity and widespread dismissal of student engagement in policy forming, we as students have a duty to get involved in our university.

The university needs changing- a new perspective and a revised governance structure.  Above all, in making these changes the academic community needs to be taken seriously. The way to a student friendly university is through policy with a central role for academic development and autonomy for students and teachers to further critical thinking in governing the UvA.

Our ambition is an open university that is in theory and practice a democratic and inclusive community. A community based on equity and where accessibility of higher education is the and will remain the priority. We have the duty to the next generation students to make sure that the UvA is accessible and inclusive.

We want the UvA to have a strong relationship with the society that it is situated in. In order for us to prevent a further ivory tower effect our university should continuously reflect on  its relationship with and relevance to society.

To govern a university is to make a choice about the kind of university you want to be. UvASociaal fights for an accessible, inclusive and democratic university with a special attention to sustainability and autonomy for teachers and students.

Starting with the quote of Audre Lorde (feminist, poet, civil rights activist and many more awesome things) we want to propose the idea of the university as a community where differences amongst members are accepted and celebrated. The University of Amsterdam (UvA) should be a place where everybody feels safe and at home. In this party programme we want to propose how to get to that ideal.

 

Signed: UvASociaal as a collective

1. Diversity

UvASociaal believes it to be very important that every student feels at home at the UvA, irrespective of race, sexual orientation, gender, culture or disabilities. We are satisfied with the report of the Diversity commission because of the emphasis they put on intersectionality. Intersectionality in policy forming at the UvA implies that in thinking about diversity at the university we need to consider intersecting social identities that relate to their own system of oppression, domination or discrimination. We believe that focusing on only one marginalised group is not enough, we have to consider all students and their place at the university. We stand for an inclusive and diverse university, not only in people but also in knowledge.

De universiteit is een academische gemeenschap waar de ontwikkeling van het individu centraal moet staan. Het onderwijs moet zich dienstbaar stellen aan de student, waardoor deze na de studie ontwikkeld is tot een kritisch en analytisch persoon, op zowel individueel als maatschappelijk vlak. Voor een kwalitatief hoogstaande academische ontplooiing zijn volgens UvAsociaal een aantal componenten essentieel; de bekwame docent, divers onderwijs van hoge kwaliteit en een sterk curriculum. Ook zijn er hierbij randvoorwaarden die deze hoogwaardige kwaliteit ondersteunen.

1.1. Silence Rooms

The Silence Rooms are places of peace and quiet at a busy university. They are there for people who need a quiet moment in their day. In the academic year 2015-2016 a couple of members of UvASociaal fought hard to ensure these silence rooms at the university. Now they are finally here but the fight is not over yet. In a lot of instances, the silence rooms are not visible, there are no signs to help students find them. In order for people to be able to use the rooms, it is of course necessary that they know where they are. Therefore, we see it as our responsibility to strive for the visibility of the silence rooms.

1.2. Diversity Unit

We are glad that the UvA is hiring a Central Diversity Officer. The Central Diversity Officer will be the central policy maker surrounding the topic of diversity at the UvA- this person will be in direct contact with the Board of Directors. However, to create a solid network for diversity policy we need a Diversity Officer at every faculty, together with the Central Diversity Officer they will form the Diversity Unit. We want to rally behind the report of the Diversity Commission (2016) regarding the Diversity Unit. The Diversity Unit should be made responsible for both forming policy on diversity and monitoring the progress of their policies. Furthermore, the diversity unit should concern itself with attracting students from high schools with a high percentage of students with a non-western background, to make sure that they know that the UvA is also an option. In addition to behind the scenes policy forming the Diversity Unit should also ensure that bottom-up initiatives regarding diversity have a place at the UvA. The Diversity Unit should get a budget to fund bottom-up initiatives concerning diversity. Also, in addition to regular planned meetings with the councils the Diversity Unit should keep in touch with social movements concerning diversity at the UvA on a regular basis. After all, these social movements played a fundamental role in raising awareness on the issues of diversity, and have earned their place at any further diversity discussions. Lastly, the people in the Diversity Unit should have high enough positions in the organisation to illicit actual change; since the UvA managers also need to be educated about the issue of diversity, members of the Diversity Unit should not be impeded by their position to assist therein.

1.3 Diversity literacy in education and the diversification of curricula

Hiring people to oversee Diversity Policy and patting ourselves on the back after that because we spared a thought about marginalised groups is of course not going to cut it. Not only do we need to hire a few people, we need to acquaint the scientific community with the matter of diversity and the problems of marginalised groups. The UvA needs to provide bias training for hiring committees, to help mitigate any implicit biases that arise during the hiring process. Furthermore, diversity literacy is also very important in the teaching of students – the employment of diversity insensitive language can make students feel very out of place. Thus, the UvA needs to provide non-mandatory diversity training for scientific personnel, to make them aware that the way they teach has a large impact on students. The curricula is also a big part of this – the texts that we call ‘classic’ at the university are often written by authors who, in other texts, were incredibly misogynistic and racist. Whilst we should continue reading and appreciating these texts for their academic merit,  we need to tell the whole story as university; that e.g. when John Locke said right to life, liberty and property he meant that not for example women or native americans. To accomplish this awareness we need to create the opportunity at the university for doing diversity focused curricula scans, helping teachers see the possibility for improving their curricula. Of course, this needs to happen in consultation and with approval of the faculty councils and the board of studies; diversity and democracy can go hand in hand.

1.4. Ombudsperson

It is important to have a full picture of discrimination at the university to react in an adequate manner. Therefore we need to understand who and how many people at the university experience discrimination. We need to install a person to whom people can make anonymous complaints of discrimination. In this manner, we can track meta trends of discrimination at the university to guide the diversity policy.

1.5. Involvement of student councils

To be successful in dealing with the problems surrounding diversity at our university the student councils need to  be included in the coming developments. The inclusion of the academic community is vital for working towards an inclusive and diverse university. The Central Diversity Officer needs to plan regular meetings with the Central Student Council to make sure that the student representatives are being involved in a good manner with the forming of diversity policy and the setting up of the trainings. Likewise, the Faculty Diversity Officers need to have regular meetings with their councils. The support and involvement of the student councils is vital to the success of positive developments concerning diversity.

1.6 Involvement of the social movements

We can all be very proud of ourselves and act like we (the popular demos) were always okay with the ideas that now float around in the diversity discussion and maybe some of us were, but the people that put this on the agenda are the numerous activists in social movements of the occupation of the Maagdenhuis. They fought hard for a Diversity Commission and are inhouse experts on diversity at the university. They deserve inclusion and recognition in the following process about diversity at the UvA. Therefore, the Central Diversity Officer needs to have regular meetings with the Diversity Forum, where the social movements are represented, to listen to their opinions and ideas.

2. Financialisation

The UvA is a community, an academic community made up out of students, scientists, teachers and supportive staff. The UvA is not a knowledge factory run by managers who direct employees who then work for knowledge consumers. The UvA does not need to be run by the laws of the ‘free’ market and students should not be seen as a cash cow. We want to take a stand against the mentality of ‘running government like a business’, or rather running the university like a business.

2.1 The Full Cost model

Everything at the UvA has a price, at least since the introduction of the full cost model. If you want to set up a table in a UvA building you need to pay, if you want to use a couple of flip-overs it can cost you over a hundred euro’s, and organising public events at the UvA can sometimes result in a lot of unexpected costs, because students will need to pay for security and business assistance (in Dutch: BHV). These are some of the ridiculous consequences of the full cost model. A system in which faculties, students and study associations pay for renting space and services offered by the combined services department of the university. UvASociaal does not believe that abolishing this internal accounting system will reduce housing and service costs for the UvA as a whole. These costs need to be paid someway somehow. UvASociaal, however, does believe that the system in place now puts too much emphasis on financial decision making and financial independence instead of solidarity within the academic community. Add to this this that the system is completely inefficient for students because of its extremely high prices and the fact that we need a small army of accountants to keep the system running and we can conclude that the UvA needs to take a critical look at the full cost model, while coming up with short term solutions for students and study associations.

2.2 Hidden budget cuts

In the last fifteen years universities throughout the Netherlands have seen a steep increase in student numbers. This increase, however, was not met with a significant increase of government spending. This has caused extraordinary pressure to reduce costs at almost every bachelor and master programme at the UvA. UvASociaal believes that student councils should keep this in mind when looking at “new and innovative ideas” for education, because these might be hidden budget cuts. One of these hidden budget cuts has been blended learning. This new way of learning, which might have potential for improving education, has been and will likely be used to cut the costs of wages by teaching online rather than in the classroom. This is just one example of where a hidden budget cut can be presented to you as a new and innovative idea, we therefore believe at that student councils should always be critical when new ideas come from the managers rather than teachers themselves and watch out for any hidden budget cut.

2.3 Collaborations with other institutes.

Next to cutting budgets at programmes the UvA has also tried to set up collaborations and mergers with other academic institutes in Amsterdam to reduce costs or create extra income, most notably the late administrative union with the  HvA and the collaboration with the bètascience faculties of the VU. Some parts of these collaborations have been successful, but overall we can conclude that both these major collaborations can be seen as a mistake by the management of the university. It should be clear now, eighteen years removed from the 90’s that bigger is not better. With more than 30.000 students and 5.000 staff members the UvA has already become too bureaucratic. Collaborations with other institutes will not help this and probably worsen the bureaucratic nonsense that students will have to deal with. We therefore urge the university to stop pursuing mergers and collaborations and acknowledge that this university is more than capable of inspiring students with its current size.

3. Accessibility

One of the most important points for UvASociaal is the accessibility of the university. We mean accessibility in the broadest sense; from the accessibility of buildings for people with a physical disability, to the accessibility of digital educational means, to measures of selectivity for educations tracks. UvASociaal wants the UvA to be as accessible as possible. To practice selection on educational track will only further the university in its unintentional (or intentional) quest to become an even more elitist institution. To not fully commit to making the university accessible for students with a disability is just plain wrong. When students with physical disabilities can’t enter bathrooms in brand new buildings, like the Roeterseilandcomplex, progression is long overdue.

 

3.1 Studying with disabilities

In the Nationale Studenten Enquête (NSE) the UvA has always been rated low by students with a disability. Even now, the university is not doing their best to mitigate this. UvASociaal wants more commitment from managers for making all the buildings and digital resources of the UvA accessible for people with a physical or audiovisual disability. This includes the bathrooms and doors in the new buildings or the buildings that are being build in the near future. We want the UvA to strive for the highest level of infrastructural accessibility. Right now, the UvA buildings only meet Dutch regulations, which are (as experienced with REC) way too low for a standard of accessibility. Being more disability- friendly as a university also includes subtitling of audio resources and making screen reader-compatible text versions available for video resources for students with audiovisual disabilities. Furthermore students with disabilities such as dyslexia or a disability on the autism spectrum often have trouble with the facilities necessary for them to properly study. We want the UvA to form easier procedures to attain certain facilities due to a disability. Often students need to go through all kinds of procedures to finally get what they need and often their privacy is not taken into account sufficiently. UvASociaal stands for accessibility, and wants to do all that needs to be done to improve the university experience for students with disabilities.

3.2 Selectivity of Master tracks

UvASociaal is in general against selection for Master tracks. The University should remain an open institution that welcomes all potential students. Selection measures, like GPA and motivation letters, often single out students from groups that are already marginalised in society. Despite the UvA being a broad university, there is a worrisome trend going on in higher education: more and more master tracks are practicing selection at an increasing number of universities. We need to take a stance against this trend and protect the accessibility of our university. Firstly because we have principal problems with selection. As previously mentioned, a big part of selection measures are aimed towards already marginalised groups in society; what if your parents aren’t highly educated and can’t help you with a motivation letter? What if your grades are not so good because you had to work during your studies? Then according to some people at the UvA you are not ‘excellent’ and you shouldn’t be allowed to do a master here. By applying the pressure of selection to students the UvA certainly puts strain on its students in the form of stress. This is the case despite the fact that selection measures are scientifically questionable at best. There is no proof that a good GPA in the bachelor leads to success in the master. Motivational letters too are questionable, since they can be written by other people. A better method of informing students about their supposed ‘adequacy’ for a certain master track would be a non-binding advice to participate in the master, but selection is not an option. Having said that, we understand that some tracks have a capacity problem concerning the number of students they can allow. In the short term we believe this to be a reasonable concern. However, a master track should give a good reason for practicing selectivity and should work on a solution of the capacity problem that leads to selection measures. Mindless selection is not the answer.

3.3 Numerus Fixus

Considering the capacity problems at some programmes, and considering the constraints laid down by the national government on medicine and dentistry due to costs and narrow job options, we accept the inevitability of some forms of selection for some programs. However, we consider systems with a cv or an interview too prone to bias. These methods facilitate direct or indirect favouring of groups based on irrelevant characteristics. Moreover, they may facilitate favouring of individuals based on nepotism or friendship. For this reason we seek to abolish these methods for admission to all programs. We prefer the return to a lottery system but condone alternatives not mentioned above until a lottery can be reimplemented. However, a slight problem occurs, the lottery system is not allowed anymore by The Hague. Therefore, we can’t return to this system without cooperation of the national government. We do want to argue that a thorough evaluation of our current system (selection via a cognitive and a non-cognitive criterium) is needed. So we want to advocate for the university to argue in The Hague that an evaluation of the new system is needed.

3.4 Schakeltrajecten (or premasters)

A premaster is a one year or half a year programme to prepare students for a master outside of their original field of education Next to maintaining accessible masters and bachelor tracks, thinking about the flexibility in master choice and upwards mobility is also crucial. When students want to do a master that is not necessarily in the same scientific field, the university this needs to be possible. To facilitate the development of one’s educational career the university needs to ensure the existence of premasters. These are important not only for students of the university, but also for the upward mobility of students of the university of applied sciences. If these students want to develop themselves in a more scientific manner via a master at the university, we need to make sure that they have a place here.  Right now, different tracks need to fund their own premasters, meaning that there is a large financial disincentive to take on students. We want the funding of these premasters to be taken up in the allocation model, so they are funded on a central level, as to mitigate this effect.

3.5. Mental Health

Throughout the course of the year this has become an important topic amongst the student councils, with a lot of UvASociaal councilmembers pressing for the inclusion of the psychological wellbeing of students on the policy agenda. However, the nature of the causes of the increasing psychological problems of students make this a difficult endeavour. In recent years more and more nationwide and university specific regulations have increasingly forced students into a straight-jacket. Bindend Studieadvies (BSA), master selectivity, coming down on study financing and administrative hurdles to organising your studies have, amongst others, made sure that student is under pressure like never before. Whilst we are going to continue to  fight for breaking down these underlying causes, this will take a long time. In the meantime, the UvA needs to take responsibility for the students that are experiencing anxiety, study- related stress and depression. There are three major points that we need to focus on; the facilities surrounding mental health,  the visibility of these facilities and breaking down the stigma surrounding mental problems. Concerning the first point we need to look at the possibilities of strengthening the UvA’s team of student psychologists. Since the number of students with psychological problems is growing, we need more student psychologists. Furthermore, we need to make sure that the facilities concerning mental health are known to students. The UvA should put  more effort into increasing the visibility of the student doctors and the facilities that they already put in place regarding mental health. Furthermore, we think that organising a mental health week to increase the visibility of the facilities is a good idea. During this week, we would engage with  students about not only about the facilities made available for mental health, but also on what mental health issues they see as important in resolving. This year our council members have already been working very hard on this dossier, we have every intention of keeping up the good work the coming year.

4.1 Societal Responsibility

One of the greatest challenges facing society is global warming and it would be a shame if the university would not take responsibility for their own contributions to global warming. The UvA has a responsibility to society to try to come up with answers to questions this challenge creates, discuss the changes in society caused by global warming, the battle against it and also lowering the footprint of the university itself.

4.2 Sustainability in our own policy

The UvA has so far not been able to come up with a substantial and cohesive sustainability policy. Most projects related to decreasing its footprint have been linked to a couple of paragraphs in the Instellingsplan, but the lack of real policy has prevented the development of more projects. The university therefore needs a cohesive strategy that focuses on slashing the university’s footprint as quickly as possible. The last couple of years there have been different initiatives such as buying solar panels and recycling waste, but these initiatives have not been able to reach their full potential due to lack of clear support from the university’s governing bodies. With a clear policy with set goals we should be capable of decreasing our footprint and keep up with other universities in The Netherlands.

4.3 Fossil Divestment

The last couple of years the university has taken small, but notable, steps to decrease its carbon footprint. The university has however, overlooked the footprint caused by its financial decisions. The choice of banks, the choice of investments the pensions funds UvA deals with and the choice of banks the UvA advises international students to use all matter.

 

On all these issues the university has failed to act in an appropriate manner. The UvA is banking at Deutsche Bank and ING; two banks that haven’t made sustainable banking a priority. The pension fund of most of the UvA’s employees still invest about 10% (€33 billion) of its money in the fossil industry and the UvA also advises international students to get a bank account at ING. UvASociaal believes the UvA should take a stance and decrease the environmental impact of our financial decisions.

The UvA needs to :

  • Push ABP (pension fund) to stop investing in the fossil industry
  • Also advise international students to go to “green banks” such as Triodos or ASN Bank
  • Start switching banks, this will take more time but in the long run we shouldn’t have financial ties with Deutsche Bank

4.4 Education and research

In the past decade the UvA has made some significant strides concerning its research and education in sustainability, but there is still quite some work to be done. There are still too many bachelors that do not offer enough courses/minors on sustainability. UvASociaal would like to see this changed; minors in for example environmental economics should help to address questions that are raised by energy policies.

5. Democratisation

Since the Maagdenhuis occupation democratisation of the university has been a hot topic. Much work has been done, but this work has not resulted in significant changes yet. To prevent democratisation from turning into a buzzword we need real changes that give students and teachers the ownership of their education. In the next couple of years UvASociaal wants to fight for these following democratisation initiatives.

5.1. Referenda

In recent years student and workers councils have had numerous discussions with the Board of Directors and other managers about support from students and staff outside of the councils to reach a better decision. Even though almost everyone agrees that the support from the academic community is of utmost importance for good decision making, nobody exactly knows whether there is enough support from the community for decisions. Because of this opposite parties claim to have support of the community. UvASociaal believes that these discussions neither tend to be productive nor fruitful and thus proposes that the UvA organises referenda at the moment that this is asked by students or staff. These referenda could be organised on program, faculty and central level. This will strengthen the position of ordinary students and staff and make sure that their voice is heard instead of just claimed.

5.2 Board of studies/Program Committees

UvASociaal sees the recent strengthening of the board of studies/Program Committees as a small success for democratisation at the UvA. These boards are representative institutes that are closest to bachelor and master programmes and can be the place where students and staff come together and take ownership of their education. This, however, is not the case right now. Education directors and deans have often tried to bypass the board of studies when making plans for education. More rights for the board of studies/program committees can strengthen their position and increases the role that students and staff have in their education. UvASociaal believes that Board of Studies should get more rights and will promote this in the councils.

 

5.3 Elected deans and board of directors

UvASociaal believes that in the next couple of years the university should experiment with elected members of the board of directors and deans. The people in these positions have enough of a significant influence on the university and academic community that we believe that the academic community should have the final say in who gets to fulfill these positions. This might be a big change for the UvA, but it is not unheard of. In Flanders students and staff elect the Rector Magnificus of major universities, such as the Catholic University of Leuven. We believe that students and staff will make good use of this opportunity.

6. Sustainable internationalisation

In recent years internationalisation has become a topic of interest. As some of you already may know, UvASociaal stands for inclusivity and that also entails the inclusion of international students. However, it is important to not be careless about the trend of internationalisation in higher education and make sure that policy formed to adequately deal with developments concerning internationalisation. UvASociaal stands for internationalisation that is handled in a careful and sustainable manner.

6.1. Education as the primary concern

We believe that education should also be the primary concern when talking about internationalisation. This doesn’t sound controversial, but often the educational context & content is underappreciated when the language of instruction is changed English. UvASociaal believes that when the internationalization of tracks is being deliberated the primary concern should always be the quality of education. We need to make clear in our university vision on education (Onderwijsvisie) and other superordinate policy documents that we put education before prestige and financial gains that come with internationalisation.

6.2. Taking responsibility for previous policy

In recent years a lot has been happening in terms of internationalisation without a clear vision and direction for these developments. A considerable amount of tracks have English as the language of education, resulting in a considerable amount of international students. However, the institutional structures of the UvA have fallen behind with the inflow of international students; we need to take responsibility for the inclusion of these students. The UvA needs to build institutional infrastructure to make sure that these students are able to be fully involved at their university, since they are also part of the academic community. The institutional infrastructure includes a.o. supporting the bilingualism of student councils, educating the non-scientific personnel in English and offering the opportunity to international students to follow free Dutch courses. Next to language skills it is also important to work on intercultural skills when studying and working in an international environment; this improves the  mutual understanding of students and teachers from different backgrounds. We need to take responsibility for the international students that are already here and not only use them for financial gain. Furthermore we need to take responsibility for previous internationalisation policy that was implemented without the proper infrastructure in the organisation.

7. The Academic Community and the underrepresented groups

In the past couple of years the role of Academic Community in policy making has been strengthened. UvASociaal is happy about this renewed interest of students, staff  and policy makers and will fight to further strengthen this discourse. We do however believe that some groups of the academic community have been neglected in the past couple of years. Next years’ student representatives should make sure that these groups become part of the Academic Community to make sure that the community is inclusive.

7.1 Cleaners, guards and caterers

The academic community doesn’t stop at scientific personnel and students. The recent uproar about the university’s treatment of the cleaners shows that the underrepresentation of the cleaners has added to their problems significantly. We, the students, need to stand for the interest of the whole academic community and thus for cleaners guards and caterers as well. These employees that might not officially work for the university[1], but they play a significant role in a students’  experience. These workers should therefore become part of the academic community. Representation in, for instance, the new senate is therefore deemed to be necessary by UvASociaal. The voices of these people have long  fallen on deaf ears and it is important that they become part of our university once again. Next to giving them a voice in the representative bodies of the UvA, we also believe that they should become employees of the UvA once again. The UvA should hire these people directly instead using third parties.

[1] They work for a third party that is hired by the University.

7.2 International Students

In recent years the number of international students has greatly increased but their role in the academic community has not kept pace with this increase. International students have only represented themselves in  two faculty student councils, while there are international students in five faculties. In the last three years there haven’t been any international students in the Central Student Council. UvASociaal believes that this needs to change: international students need to become active members in the academic community and should be able to join student councils.

7.3 PhD’s

Whilst PhD students might have to contend with the largest workloads at the university, they are hardly represented in policy making of the university. They cannot represent themselves or vote for worker councils. Whilst there are PhD councils, their influence is not even close to that of worker or student council. The PhD’s have a huge impact on research and education and they work actively in the academic community. It should therefore be clear that their underrepresentation is a shame for the university and changes need to made.

8.1. Feedback on open work

While we think grades can be suitable as a working measure, we consider verbal or textual feedback more valuable as a learning experience. We therefore support textual feedback during theses and internships. We also think it would be valuable if final evaluations of theses or internships would contain textual feedback as well as grades.

8.2. New forms of education and contact with the teacher

While we support experimenting with new forms of education. These should not come at a cost of contact time with a teacher. Contact with a teacher allows for the sharing of valuable insight based on a teacher’s experience that books or little quizzes online can provide. With the increasing role of digital means in education it is important to guard the notion of education as interaction with teachers. After all, students are supposed to learn from them. There is a trend going on at the university that more and more digital means are being used in education. This is usually in the guise of Blended Learning, a mix form of learning by ‘traditional’ means and digital means. We believe that sometimes Blended Learning can be beneficial to the learning process of students, but we also suspect that some people in the organisation might use it as a simple budget cut. Therefore, we need to be wary of the uses of Blended Learning and protect the time we are supposed to spend with the people that should teach us about our respective disciplines.

8.3. Programme overhauls

While we see that a fresh start may sometimes be necessary for a study programme to allow for the proper integration of fixes accumulated over time, we also think new programmes inevitably start out ridden with mistakes in the first years after implementation. We therefore think programme overhauls should be backed with proper arguments and should reasonably be expected to fix a large number of issues that cannot reasonably be fixed with small changes.

To prevent too many issues during and right after implementation of a new programme, a finished set of OERs, subjects (including goals, form of instruction, form of examination and requirements for admission) and schedule for implementation should be available before an overhaul should be accepted, preferably a year before starting the implementation. Each subject coordinator should be appointed at least a year before the subject starts and the division of content among teaching hours should be finished half a year before the start of the subject.

8.4 The autonomy and freedom of students and teachers

BSA is a measures where a student needs to obtain 42 ECTS (or more, depending on the faculty) in the first year, with a binding negative study advice being issued should a student obtain less. In other words, they will be kicked out. We believe this to be a bad and ineffective measure. Firstly, these kind of measures are turning the university into a high school at a very fast pace; we are students with genuine interest in our topics, not children who need to be forced to study. The university should give the students more responsibility and should think of them as autonomous adults, not little children who need repressive measures. UvASociaal believes that it is important to critically look at this measure, and if needed revise it. However, there is one problem, BSA is unfortunately a national policy, so only the UvA can’t stop with this policy. The UvA only has a say in how high the bar is for a study advice. We propose to lower the bar to 0 ECTS, we are not an high school and therefore don’t need to treat our students that way nor force our teachers to become high school teachers.

Another thorn in the side of the autonomy and freedom of students and teacher is 8-8-4, the uniform layout of the academic year. Somebody decided in one point of time that a semester should be structured the following way; 8 weeks, 8 weeks and 4 weeks. We think maintaining such a rigid structure of the year is infringement on the freedom of teachers to give the courses that they want. Also, within this structure of the academic year students are forced to study in a certain way that they might not want to do – with this scheme of ‘regular’ studying all students are forced into the same straitjacket. We believe that it is important to make sure that students and teachers have the freedom to structure their own education, especially as an education is there to help a student, not hinder them. Thus, UvASociaal believes that 8-8-4 needs to be made more flexible  according to the guidelines  of the teachers and the students, such that students can make the best out of their education and teachers can teach with sufficient freedom to do so adequately.

8.5. Study advisors

The role of study advisors for students should not be underestimated. Given their position maintaining an overview on track and student development they need to be the people to whom students can ask their substantive questions about their academic career. It is very important that supporting the student is a central element in the work of study advisors. It should thus be the priority to for study advisors to facilitate solving student problems within their domain according to what is best for the student, not according to the speed by which they help a student obtain a diploma (and possibly leaving problems unresolved.) By being widely accessible and being open to the wishes of students they can contribute to students feeling of secure & supported. Student development should take a higher priority than issuing a diploma or making a profit. We believe that study advisors play a vital role in signaling mental health problems of students, oftentimes being the first contact with a relevant authority that a student has. Because of the crucial part they play for students, study advisors should be supported in their tasks at the university.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Summary

We recommend that you to read our awesome party program, but we can’t fault you if you can’t find the time. So for all you busy people out there, here’s a little summary of the viewpoints of UvAsociaal:

–          We want a more inclusive and diverse university

–          We stand for more attention to sustainability at the university

–          We need a more accessible university

–          We believe in more autonomy for teachers and students

–          We need to stop needless regulations in the educational life of students

The university needs to think about sustainability when forming policy and value sustainability centered research and education since climate change, you know,  is kind of a big deal. We want our university to be inclusive and accessible. No student should feel excluded because they do not fit the mold of a conventional student. The UvA needs to make sure its buildings accessible for people with physical disabilities and that there are good procedures in place to help students get the facilities they need. Furthermore we believe that over-regulation and standardization of a curriculum has negative effect on the freedom and autonomy of students and teachers. Furthermore, over-regulation puts students and teachers in a straight-jacket and leads to an organisation that is more focused on meeting simple requirements than on the academic community and the quality of education. The university should give students and teachers more autonomy over their education, learning and developing oneself should be the main emphasis, not the ability to take a test. The UvA should not be overly concerned with enforcing a misguided uniformity in student’s lives but rather should nurture community building, academic development  and increased involvement of the academic community as a whole at the university.