Student - March 28, 2013

'I prefer to stick to my own opinion'

When people think of the student council, they generally think of the biggest party, VeSte. But there are three independent members of the council too. Shaoyang, Yinying and Miao are looking for successors. 'This is the best channel for defending your interests.'

Miao (left) and Yinying are independent members of the student council. The third ‘independent’, Shaoyang, was unable to be present for the photo.
'I didn't know I had a choice,' says Shaoyang. He was very keen to be on the student council and he thought that was only possible through VeSte. So the Chinese Master's student joined the party. But it was not long before differences of opinion began to emerge. His fellow countryman Yinying was in the same boat and they left the party together. They got together with another, already independent, Chinese council member, Miao and formed a group called 'Independent members'.
The trio are very happy with their independent status, although it can sometimes be difficult to compete with a big party. 'A party formulates its position outside the official meetings and the members often all vote the same way. As a party member you have to toe the line,' says Yinying. 'I prefer to stick to my own opinion.' The three discuss issues outside the meetings but on the council they each have their own votes.
The elections for next year's student council will be held in May. This is a chance for students to influence the university's plans. The student council meets the rector Martin Kropff every three months. The rector asks the students for their advice and they can put forward ideas of their own. For some measures their consent is required. The independents are busily looking for successors to take over the job. Not in order to keep a particular political flag flying, because they do not have one. 'We look for practical solutions,' says Shaoyang. 'We support the policy that the most students stand to gain from,' adds Yinying. The independent members do not have a particular support base to bear in mind. But how, then, do voters know what they stand for? 'A new independent member has to decide on his positions for himself,' explains Miao. 'Before the elections he should make his priorities clear and campaign for them.'
The question why a student would want to suspend his studies for a year to do this work is easily answered. 'Through international student groups I hear a lot of complaints about the university,' says Yinying. 'The student council is the best channel for influencing things directly. If you don't take that opportunity, you lose the chance to make a difference.'
But you also learn an awful lot from a year on the student council, say the students. They have followed countless workshops - about time management, effective meetings, and intercultural communication. And they are proud of the concrete results they have achieved. To name but one, the university is going to get to work on the plan for an International Desk. 'Foreign students will be able to go there all year round with practical questions,' says Yinying with pride.
'As a student council we got that firmly onto the agenda.' Miao is looking forward to the next few months, when she is going to work hard on the council's plans for a digital museum about Wageningen on the internet. 'The idea is to make a historical overview with interesting stories and milestones,' she explains. 'A channel for the university to create its image. Nice for future students and for us when we look back on our time here.'
But Miao knows that this is an idea for the long term, which will have to be given concrete shape by their successors. Would you like to take over the baton? Submit your candidacy by 4 April through