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21 April 2021

Where is the humanity?

While I am writing this, we are entering the Election Week for USR and FSR candidates. I am very happy to see my own (small) faculty represented so well. Combined, the SRVU and UP candidate lists contain a whopping five student from Humanities. Currently —myself included— three out of eleven USR members are from the Humanities faculty. In our own council, we like to joke that we put the "humane" in the USR, because we have a very bad sense of humor. Luckily, almost a full year since we were elected as a council, we have accomplished a sense of trust and ease amongst each other. We know everyone's strengths, weaknesses and, despite doing it digitally, we have also gotten to known each other as humans. However, I don't think it can hurt to have as much humanity as possible in the new USR board, because we have been asking each other a lot lately: "where IS the humanity?"

Much too often we are working on issues on which everyone seems to be aligned. Yet, oftentimes it remains an unnecessarily tiring, long process, until there are no winners left. Everyone at VU has been working very hard, especially since Covid. As a student, you're never fully aware of all the work going on "backstage", which is why appreciation was a returning topic in our policy plan. Unfortunately, we continue to experience a pervasive sense of distrust between some parties in the university and the student council.

But who betrayed who first?

I feel that this sense of distrust is also growing between the university and its students. As Coordinator of Education & Research, Online Proctoring has been a continuous agenda topic. Recently, more and more big cases of fraud at our university have come to light. To "ensure the validity of our degrees", VU is now looking at new additional measures to reduce the amount of fraud. In their eyes, VU has assumed their trust in students, and "if students betray this trust, the institution will be forced to take additional measures". But who betrayed who first? Do we really need to start a debate about the chicken and the egg?

As USR, we have an important right and duty to protect students' privacy. As many students have attested, the university' usage of online proctoring software is experienced as an infringement on our privacy. You could say, therefore, that this was a betrayal of the university against students first. Personally, I understand the value of online proctoring in some cases, but not in the scope in which VU is currently using it. Other universities employ online proctoring at a much lower rate, or do not use it at all, choosing alternative methods instead.

If VU were now to install additional measures, I fear that we are entering a vicious cycle of distrust. Still, we are optimistic that we will come to an agreement before we hand over the baton to the next council. "You're only human" we say to each other in the USR when one of us makes a mistake. Well, I don't think it can hurt to recognize the "humane" in each other a bit more.

Kimberly van den Ouden
Coordinator Education & Research, Student-orientated Support, Presidium
k.van.den.ouden.usr@vu.nl

Kimberly van den Ouden USR

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