Science - May 24, 2007

Student council election debate: a clash of cultures

The visual differences between the VeSte and PSF parties at the election debate on Tuesday 23 May are immediately clear. The first group is dressed in white, the other in red. Their political differences, however, are less obvious. It takes some sharp questions by Rector Martin Kropff to heat up the debate and reveal differences in their political styles.

At first, the student council candidates avoid asking their opponents difficult questions. They are polite, and some are even quite nervous. Suddenly PSF attacks VeSte: 'You only represent the student organisations, not all students like we do!' Indeed, VeSte was founded by the big student organisations. But a VeSte supporter in the audience replies: 'More than half of the students belong to these organisations. That's a lot. Besides, you can't represent everyone.'

The progressives launch a second attack. 'You only have a few small ideas, and they're all in our programme too! We also have larger topics, like sustainability.' But the VeSte representatives make it clear that they are too pragmatic for that. Their preference is for small, but reachable goals. 'By the way,' says Alexy Pristupa from VeSte, 'We can help each other in the student council. We can focus on short-term and you more on long-term issues.' After that remark, the tension subsides again. Someone in the audience asks: 'If you put the two party programmes together, wouldn't we have a good programme?'

VeSte, however, sees another big difference with PSF. 'We don't scream and shout, and achieve nothing. We are willing to cooperate and compromise.' Of course, the opponents don't agree: 'So are we, but we also act when we can't agree, like when we published Rebel Resource. You just talk and talk, and nothing happens.'

The debate livens up a bit more when Kropff asks the parties how they intend to reach the other 5000 students, because he really wants know who he’ll be talking to after the elections: true representatives or a select group of very active students?

Both parties are keen to show how much they communicate with other students. PSF mention their pancake-lunches, and the newsletters they deliver to all student accommodation. VeSte, on the other hand, claims to have good contacts with student associations where Dutch and international students can integrate. Christopher Baan of PSF and ISOW (International Student Organization) retaliates: 'But we invited you, and you didn't react!' 'Yes, but we hope to improve internationalisation in the future. It's in our programme. PSF hasn't been able to reach the student organisations.' PSF: 'We tried, but they refused to contact us!'