03 November 2022

Shouting together strenghtens the message


When universities and students work together, the message to The Hague will become more powerful, says USC-chair Joep van Dijk.


On April 6 2021, a bunch of academics from the Netherlands dove into the Hofvijver in The Hague. Besides being a crazy sight, the action attracted a huge amount of media attention. What was the president of the (then) VSNU, the board of LSVB, and all those stately professors doing there in the water?

We’re drowning financially, was the message. The pretty absurd-looking action was a cry for help from the Universities; there is far too little money going into education. Massive cutbacks are making it increasingly difficult to provide high quality education. You cannot run a university on a dime.

Such protest from the side of the university seemed to come out of the blue, and had a profound impact. Public opinion was influenced; the subject of less budget cuts to our education system moved up the agenda; in The Hague, people nodded approvingly. Now, almost two years later, the situation also seems somewhat improved. There is a little more money.

On the student side, we saw protest after protest against the loan system in recent years. In order to counter the massively increased student debts, there were demands to reinstate a basic scholarship for Dutch students. After two years of protests, in part organized by our student union SRVU, which also included the largest student protest in ten years, there will actually be a basic scholarship again starting next year.

There is clearly potential in public lobbying and protest from the university, and from the student population (student protests are a common thread throughout Dutch history). The question then arises as to why forces are not combined. When university and student work together, an incredibly powerful message can be conveyed towards the Hague.

That is why I advocate for a closer collaboration between VU as an organization and the students who give life to the campus. VU's core tasks are securing good education and research, but if your students don't have a roof over their heads, it becomes difficult for them to pursue education. If there is no money, both teaching and research become very difficult.
Together we can make a fist against the housing shortage for students, together we can make it clear that more money is needed for our knowledge economy. In short, with combined strength, the university can have a profound influence on public opinion, the press and ultimately The Hague.
Together, let's jump in the Hofvijver again, or protest and shout on Dam Square collectively.



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