Laptop in hand, student council members approached students this week with the question whether they wanted to vote online for the student council elections. ‘Necessary for getting a high turnout,’ says VeSte. Putting pressure on people, say competitors CSF and S&I.
VeSte, the biggest party by a long way, has for years been going around with voting cards in their hands to canvass for votes. The party sees nothing wrong with that at all. Party leader Nick van Nispen: ‘Every year only about 30 percent of the students vote for the student council. If we didn’t actively approach them to ask them if they would like to vote, the percentage would be even lower. Then how can a student council claim to represent the students?’
Nick acknowledges that students can feel a bit pressurized to vote for the party which puts the laptop in front of them. ‘My experience is that anyway people say, I’ll vote later.’ He stresses that VeSte candidates don’t look at how the student votes. ‘We are not out to get votes for VeSte as such, but to get people voting in general.’
Charles El-Zeind, currently on the student council for S&I, says his party and CSF are against this way of getting people to vote. ‘But because VeSte does it, we are obliged to do it too,’ says Charles. ‘the Christian party CSF, which is against it too, doesn’t join in with this approach to persuading people to vote. They stick to their guns. I take my hat off to them for that. But they can probably afford not to, anyway. They can quite easily mobilize their supporters through Christian student societies. We rely mainly on international students, and they are not as well organized.’
S&I and CSF both object to this blurring of the lines between campaigning and voting. Jan-Willem Kortlever, current council member for CSF, says, ‘People need to be able to think about their choice and not be put under pressure to vote on the spot.’ Charles of S&I adds, ‘Students must have the chance to find out first what the other parties have to offer.’
The argument for raising the turnout doesn’t cut any ice, says Jan-Willem. ‘OF course CSF also wants a lot of students to vote. But it is more important to get an election result that is representative of how Wageningen students think than it is to get a big turnout but with people being pushed in a certain direction.’ S&I and CSF are considering their options for preventing this in future.
According to Hermijn Speelman of Legal Services, the various parties were alerted to the unwritten rules of the game in advance, such as not being pushy so voters are not influenced and get the time, space and opportunity to make their own decision. Speelman: ‘In the past there was a gentlemen’s agreement between the participating parties. It is up to the parties themselves to draw that up.’
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WHAT HAVE THEY ACHIEVED?
CSF, S&I en VeSte each have their own identity, their own approach to problems and their own priorities. How have their individual identities found expression over the past year? A couple of examples:
- Social support. This year the two men of the CSF have championed the cause of students who experience difficulties during their studies. Thanks to them, student psychologists are now easier to access and there is greater awareness within the Executive Board of the importance of the social support system.
- Strategic Plan. Together with the Green Office, S&I has argued successfully for more sustainability in the Strategic Plan. The university wants to be energy-neutral in 2030. The use of gas will be reduced in 2018 and in the meantime steps will be taken to establish whether the university can transfer to green energy sources.
- Fossil Free. Under the banner of sustainability, S&I has spurred the university to join the ‘Fossil Free movement’ this year. This means that the university should no longer invest its funds in coal, oil and gas companies. Unfortunately for S&I, the move generated little enthusiasm on the part of the university.
- FOS. The advent of the Social Loan System has consequences for the FOS; financial compensation for students who, for example, do a board year. VeSte has successfully lobbied for a transition year in 2015-2016. This means that in the next academic year student-administrators will still receive compensation. What shape or form the FOS will take in 2016-2017 is still unclear.
- Thymos. At the start of the academic year, Thymos sounded the alarm; the sports foundation was in financial difficulty. Owing to the growing number of students doing sport, Thymos has had to dig deep into its own reserves. VeSte supported Thymos successfully in its bid for more subsidy from the university.
- Social Sciences. The Student Council is of the opinion that certain courses are missing in the study programmes and has seen that students have trouble finding internships. The Student Council also thinks that funding is not fairly distributed among the social and science programmes. This is why, at VeSte’s urging, a Social Sciences Quality working group has been set up that will soon issue advice on how to make the programmes future-proof.
CN/RA WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT WHAT THE VARIOUS PARTIES STAND FOR? On resource-online party leaders Anne (S&I), Wiard (CSF) en Nick (VeSte) explain their positions and what voting for their party will do for you.