Do we need internationals in the council?

Students across Groningen have been voting for seats on the University Council, but only one of the candidates – from SOG – was an international student. Where were the others?


Berber Harkema, a current member of the University Council and a leading figure in Calimero, claimed that several international students did apply to be candidates, but the Dutch applicants were more suitable. However, that doesn’t mean international students won’t be properly represented. ‘You don’t have to be an international student to represent the international students, just as one doesn’t have to be homosexual to represent homosexuals’, says Berber. ‘As long as students are bringing issues to us, we will strive to make whatever changes we can.’

There’s no bias between international and Dutch students concerning the selection process for candidates. However, Berber says there are inherent benefits to having Dutch council members. ‘The meetings are all in Dutch, making the understanding of Dutch essential, and there are a huge number of Dutch memos to read about University matters.’

However, University Council affairs may be conducted in English in a few years’ time.


elections candidate alexandra

The only international candidate Alexandra Crisan (SOG)

Maarten de Wit, the faction chairman of SOG, claims that having an international student on the Council is essential. ‘The best way to fully understand what international students want is to hear it from someone on the Council.’

It also makes international students more likely to approach the Council with problems, claims Maarten. ‘It makes the international community feel more recognized as part of the University and more likely to raise issues.’

For several years SOG has been actively seeking international candidates for Council roles, says Maarten. ‘The number of international students has risen in the last few years from 15% to perhaps 20% or higher. The need for international representation is therefore becoming more important.’

Maarten claims that having international students on the Council has already helped international students in general. ‘One of our current Council members, who is an international student, started the initiative that has given future international students 50 free Dutch language lessons. These will help future students find work and gain more from their experiences here.’