After five years without one, Wageningen once again has a student trade union. The Student Alliance Wageningen (SAW) is the successor to the Wageningen Students’ Organization (WSO) and was set up in response to the student protests against evening lectures last May.
The main objective of the new student trade union is to poll opinions on the evening lectures and present the results to the executive board. The SAW also wants to provide information on matters such as housing.
According to SAW chair Fons Janssen, there is a need for another lobby organization besides the Student Council, to look beyond student interests within the university. ‘It is important to have an independent party which has even closer contact with all the different organizations in Wageningen,’ says Fons. ‘Take housing and public transport access to the university. A student union can make sure the right stakeholders are brought together.’
Meanwhile 22 associations have joined the Wageningen student union. These include study associations, sports association and social clubs. This does not mean that the members of these associations are automatically members of the SAW. ‘The association is a member and individual members have a say through their association,’ explains Aart-Jan van de Glind, secretary of the SAW.
Ex-WSO board member Wiebe Aans, who now works at Studium Generale, sees the revival of a student trade union as a good initiative. He does feel, however, that the Student Alliance should focus on study associations rather than on all the different kinds of associations. ‘The aim is to look at the interests of the student. All students are represented in a study association. That’s different in a sports association.’
The WSO was closed down in 2011 after 46 years, because there were no new board members. That a student trade union is being set up now is due to dissatisfaction on issues of capacity caused by the university’s continuous growth. ‘There weren’t such big problems in the past as there are now. Recently students have felt they were not listened to, and they feel they were not consulted enough on the introduction of evening classes. And this led to protests. After those protests many associations saw the need for a voice that speaks up for students’ interests.’