STORIES

Joep van Dijk
Key People 12 September 2022

‘You should tackle the things that you're dreading most’

From protesting against the student loan system, to translating his activism into constructive discussion. Joep van Dijk is the new chair of the University Student Council.
BY Daphne Damiaans PICTURE Peter Valckx

The end of the summer holidays means the beginning of an exciting year for you. Have you been able to get prepared in the last few weeks?
“We had a couple of USC meetings before the summer holidays, both to get to know each other and to discuss issues. What are everyone’s expectations? How are we going to divide up the work? We also formulated the main outlines of our goals. But I also spent four weeks travelling in Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland and a number of countries that make up the former Yugoslavia.”

University Student Council The Council’s primary focus is the quality and accessibility of education and VU Amsterdam’s student policy. The USC has regular consultations with the Executive Board and exercises the power of consent and advising. The Council holds public meetings where students are invited to present their opinions. Visit: vu.nl/nl/over-de-vu/meer-over/universitaire-studentenraad

Your goals – can you tell us a bit more about them?
“I can’t yet go into the details, but we definitely want the USC to be more visible on campus. There are a lot of students who don’t know what the Council does and turnout for the elections has been lower than in past years. Even though the USC is such a great and influential organisation: we are the students’ voice, we represent them on the university’s participation bodies. It’s important that people know that.”

Those elections handed you the role of chairperson. Why do you think that you’re suited to the role?
“In addition to gaining a lot of experience over the last few years, including as chair of the SRVU Student Union, I think that I’m good at seeing each person’s strengths. People join the USC because they’re passionate. How do you make sure they keep that passion, that the fire doesn’t go out during the year? I think it’s important to know what makes council members enthusiastic and what they’re feeling. That’s the only way we can all stay motivated. The position suits me. It’s a great feeling to achieve something as a team.”

What are your personal priorities for this role?
“Do you have a minute to spare? During the academic year 21-22 I was mostly occupied with student housing for the SRVU. We’re in the middle of a crisis, especially for international students. I want to actively tackle that problem. I also want to raise more awareness about sexual violence on campus and in the wider community. We have to create a safe atmosphere and have adequate provisions for dealing with it when it goes wrong. Thirdly, inclusivity is high on my agenda: how can we actively celebrate all the wonderful cultures within the university, instead of simply accepting the fact? We also really have to do something about the capacity problem. VU Amsterdam is growing really fast, so we have to make sure now that the problem doesn’t get any bigger than it already is.”

That’s certainly ambitious. What is the minimum you want to have achieved at the end of this academic year?
“I want to have a team that works well together, that is successful on campus. We are going to be visible at the big university events, like the introductory fair and the DéJà VU Festival. I’m really looking forward to that! Plus we want to organise some fun events ourselves. It’s the best way to reach students and hear what kind of problems they’re facing.”

Are there also things that you’re not looking forward to?
“It might sound a bit stereotyped, but I believe that the things that you’re dreading the most are the things you really have to tackle. This chairperson role carries a huge number of responsibilities, and that thought sometimes frightens me – but that’s exactly the reason I want to do it. It’s been my dream for years to ultimately enter politics or find work with a trade union. I think that the coming year will be very educational in that respect too.”

 

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