Don’t criticize the Housing Office
International and European Law student Rasmus Geertsema (21) is having talks with the University about Host me right!, his new website that should make the unwieldy student housing market more transparent by enabling students to review their landlords. The University is not one hundred percent happy about this plan, and will only support the website if it will not post reviews of the Housing Office, the organization that assists international students in finding temporary accommodation.
‘Justified criticism is fine’, says Jan Wolthuis, policy official at the Education & Students department. ‘But we don’t want to stigmatize the Housing Office.’
The University fears that negative reviews may prevent international students coming to Groningen. ‘And we also want to avoid the Housing Office receiving cartloads of criticism’, says Wolthuis. ‘After all, they are a discussion partner of ours, and we are jointly responsible for the Housing Office, so it wouldn’t make sense to regard them as the enemy.’
Geertsema is disappointed with the response. ‘We are not going to censor our website. If we did that, we might as well not even start with the project. We are continuing, and the University can either cooperate or not.’
Together with a group of students, Geertsema will investigate exactly which interest the University has in the Housing Office and why the organizational costs are so high. ‘Take the Van Houtenlaan, where the Housing Office pays an annual EUR 72,000 in cleaning costs. This would mean nine hours of cleaning each day. Just take a look inside the building and you will know that that’s not true.’
Geerstema – who petitioned the municipality for better housing some weeks ago – will be informed in two weeks’ time whether the Groningen municipality is willing to sponsor Host me right! If it does not, he will look into a commercial model that may enable the website to remain independent. According to Wolthuis, the University is still willing to discuss collaboration.