News - October 7, 2004

English no problem at council meeting

The first international student council meeting held in English went off without a hitch. Apart from a few technical terms, language did not prove to be an obstacle and may have even speeded the whole thing up.

Last Monday Wageningen University held its first student council meeting with international representation, a first in the Netherlands, confirming its leading position in the internationalisation of higher education in this country. Despite the fact that all participants had already conducted other meetings in English, this meeting was special. Gerco den Hartog of the CSF (Christian Student Fraction): ‘We have held previous meetings in English, but they were either smaller or on subjects that were not so relevant for us. This was the first meeting in which we as student representatives could make our point on a number of issues to the university board.’

Hartog reckons that about half of the students present still had difficulty doing everything in English. Nevertheless the meeting was conducted at a good speed and both questions and answers seemed to be more to the point. Only a few ‘technical terms’ remained untranslated, the main one being ‘medezeggenschap’ (participation). But even this word is apparently already familiar to the international students.

The relaxed atmosphere was broken just once towards the end of the meeting when rector Bert Speelman was brought up sharp by the chair Marije Struik. Speelman accused the council of changing the course set by their predecessors on a matter that had been discussed before the summer break. Despite her relative youth (she has just graduated), Struik was not fazed by the rector’s attitude and replied that this was not the case, complimenting the council on how well they had managed to hand over such a complex subject.

It is clear that the student council intends to continue in the direction it has set out in, which includes the new work group Internationalisation and integration. There’s work to do. Hartog: ‘Last week we had a meeting at WSO and it became clear that the various international organisations in Wageningen have very little contact with each other. Some did not even know of each other’s existence.’ /JH