The School Representation Council. Spring season is election time. Anna Bezpala wonders: who are those students who want a seat in these councils?
‘I was just like: you know what? Whatever I‘m getting into, I will be able to directly communicate the issues I see’, says Idaira Moragues. ‘Other students might not have this opportunity.’ And that is why Idaira is a member of the School Representation Council (SRC) of the Prince Claus Conservatoire. It is so much to her liking that Idaira is also a candidate in the elections for the next SRC.
Most of the representatives didn’t know representation councils existed
The School Representation Council (SRC), every school at Hanze UAS has one, and every year all students have the chance to elect new representatives.
It might be surprising, but most students that bring problems to the discussion and get to review documents that shape our studies, are no different from other students. Most of them don’t have a background in such work. And until recently most of them did not know that such councils existed.
Also surprising: anyone of us can become a representative, if we’d want to. And yet most students do not know that these councils exist and even less students know what function SRC’s have. With this year’s deadlines for candidacy nearing, I set out to find this out.
‘It is really nice to make the managers more aware of what students think’
‘You get insights about the school background’, says Marieke van der Galiën, who just like Idaira wants to continue her work as a representative in the SRC of Prince Claus Conservatoire. ‘You learn about things students can change. Let’s say you have a problem with your school programme. Sometimes you can go and discuss the problem with a teacher and solve it. But it may also happen you don’t get a good solution. Then the council becomes a pretty good place to discuss the issue.’
‘My favourite part is that I get to raise issues from a student’s perspective to a higher level’, says Jafar Lotfi, one of the SRC-representatives at International Business School. ‘The administration’s perspective about students’ life might be not quite accurate. It is really nice to make them more aware of what students think.’
Students operate on an equal footing with lecturers, which is in contrast with the day-to-day hierarchical relationships
‘At first I was pretty shocked by the amount of paperwork’, says Idaira, ‘and also by the language in the paperwork. All these abbreviations, for example, and the vague formulations. But the more meetings I attended, the more I got into it. I recognized more words here and there and became more confident in analysing the texts and giving my opinions about them.’
Idaira stresses the importance of direct contact with students. At Prince Claus the student members of the SRC hold meeting hours. ‘We talk with other students to be able to collect the general opinions on topics.’
In the SRC students operate on an equal footing with lecturers. Which of course is in contrast with the day-to-day hierarchical relationships. ‘I don’t feel any power distance’, says Jafar, ‘the teachers are very open. They are really willing to listen to different perspectives.’
At first I thought: this might not be my place to say
‘Being in these small settings during meetings was slightly intimidating at first’, says Idaira. ‘I was like: o, I am going to express concerns about the lessons of my own teachers. Over time that feeling changed. At first you think: this is too personal, or: this might not be my place to say. But then I remembered that it is not about me in the first place, it is for the sake of my fellow students.’
The way they got into contact with the council differs. For Jafar, it was through an email about the elections. Marieke was asked to apply by one of the previous representatives. In Idaira’s case the head of her study department suggested the option. They all three wrote a promotion text for themselves and waited for the outcome. All of them were motivated by the change they could make.
What does it take to be an efficient representative? ‘You have to be prepared or willing to speak your mind. Even in front of people you know as your teachers’, says Idaira. ‘They’re there and you’re there for something. You’re all working on the problems as a whole. Be prepared to spend some time on the work per week, to attentively read the documents you are assigned, because the quantity can be overwhelming. But don’t be afraid to ask for help of other SRC members, because they really want to help.’
If you don’t share your concerns, you cannot really make a change
Marieke: ‘If you’re interested in knowing more about the behind-the-scenes of the school and your studies, consider applying.’
‘I believe that all students who want to see a better university environment should participate and share their voices’, says Jafar. ‘If we as students spend a lot of time talking to each other, complaining about different things and we don’t share those concerns with the management, we cannot really make a change. But if you participate, and share your concerns and your ideas, you definitely can.’
Photo (fragment): meeting of the School Representation Council of Hanze’s School of Communication