Equivalence is one of the core values of De Vrije Student. For us, all students are equal, regardless of origin, socio-cultural background, gender or orientation. De Vrije Student therefore believes that Utrecht University should always treat students equally. As far as we are concerned, positive discrimination, quotas or other 'diversity-promoting' measures do not fit in with this. Speaking about “ideal student populations”, as is the case in the current diversity policy, is a huge faux pas for De Vrije Student, which goes against what the university should stand for: equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of background. If a student, teacher or researcher is competent, it does not matter what the origin, gender or religious opinion of the student is. The university must ensure that forced pluralism is not put above quality.
The Free Student therefore finds it good that the university is investigating a possible negative effect on accessibility and we are very pleased with fantastic initiatives such as InclUUSion and MeettheProfessor. The Free Student supports all these initiatives and has a warm heart for research.
Emotion, identity politics and ideological views often threaten to cloud the conversation about diversity. Stimulating diversity only for the sake of diversity itself is undesirable. It is time for realism and common sense to return. There should be no room to alter the core values of Utrecht University. It is not desirable for the university to adopt a political position and thereby jeopardize its neutrality. In this context, earlier statements such as “the university is too white” are extremely undesirable. Our university is by definition proud of all its students, regardless of their skin color.
The Free Student is therefore strongly in favor of real diversity. A diverse pallet of opinions, backgrounds and preferences is invaluable for academic development. Every effort must be made to give every student the opportunities and space to develop themselves at Utrecht University. De Vrije Student wants to do this with an open mind, without attaching importance to the origin of the student in question or the current composition of the student population. Every student should be welcome: whether you are from a highly educated family or a first-generation student.
In the coming year, De Vrije Student will continue to follow developments in the field of diversity closely and critically. As the only party that dares to criticize openly when plans go wrong, De Vrije Student contributes to the diversity of views within the university council.
Diversity of thinking must also be central to Utrecht's social media policy. This means that different perspectives can be communicated to the University community, that the university is neutral and that all student initiatives and associations are treated equally. Too often there seems to be a preference within the UU social media team. De Vrije Student finds this undesirable and advocates a social media strategy that all students can agree with.
5.2 Student welfare
Many students still suffer from severe stress. In recent years, the University Council has drawn a great deal of attention to student welfare. It is good that Utrecht University has put student welfare high on the agenda and has set up a task force. Where for the time being the main focus is on combating the symptoms of stress and work pressure and awareness-raising actions such as the wellbeing week, prevention must be a priority for De Vrije Student. In order to respond more effectively to prevention, it is essential to find out exactly what the bottlenecks are. Now that the extensive RIVM study into student welfare has been postponed by one year due to the corona crisis, the university must take its responsibility and investigate this itself.
In order to reduce the stress among both students and teachers, Utrecht University will have to expand the current measures considerably. De Vrije Student therefore continues to fight for the abolition or adjustment of the aforementioned unnecessary and stress-increasing regulations, such as the too strict resit regulation, the attendance requirement and the online proctoring measures, which impose rules on students and at the same time capture them during stressful exams. The Free Student thus opposes regulations of the university that damage the intrinsic motivation of the student. Suspending or alleviating such arrangements gives students the necessary breathing space and flexibility in their agendas, which is an essential part of the wellbeing issue.
As far as we are concerned, one of the most important measures that the university can take to reduce stress is to build in moments of rest. The pressure on some students is so high, because after a few weeks of summer holidays they live from exam to exam after a year. That is extremely unhealthy. Every person needs a moment of rest. Last year, therefore, De Vrije Student already argued for a real Christmas holiday, without re-exams on December 28 or in the first week of January. Thanks to strict lobbying by De Vrije Student, this will actually become a policy from the Christmas holiday of 2021.
However, we are not there yet. In some studies, the period from the Christmas holidays to the summer holidays is more than seven months long, without any rest. As far as De Vrije Student is concerned, this has been unhealthily long. De Vrije Student advocates for them an extra week off. Such a week can relieve the pressure in the often crowded second part of the academic year. The University of Amsterdam (UvA) already introduced such a free week last year with the same reasoning.
5.3 Really good student counseling
The tutoring seems to be a bit of a neglected child at Utrecht University. Too often, the role of tutor, which can be vital, is filled by inexperienced and often temporary university teachers or is a mandatory part of the teacher's duties. This obviously does not benefit the quality of the tutor. The Free Student therefore believes that the tutor should be radically different. Instead of lecturers who are part-time tutors (and often receive far too few FTEs), De Vrije Student wants to combine the functions of tutor and study advisor (currently a separate, full function) into a single position: the study coach.
The study coach will become a permanent point of contact for the student, know the personal and university circumstances and respond to them. The student goes from number to individual, which will be necessary for flexible study. In addition, the study coach, like the current study advisor, remains authorized to make decisions. The advantage of this is that a study coach is much closer to the student. This allows a study coach to make a better and more appropriate decision. The study coach thus becomes a kind of hybrid between a study advisor and a tutor: De Vrije Student wants to combine the advantages of both roles in one position.
5.4 An honors track for every ambitious student
Access to international top universities increasingly requires students to have completed an honors track. De Vrije Student believes that ambitious students should be given every opportunity to do this. For example, it would be good if there was a suitable extra offer for each course. This can be done, for example, in collaboration with the study association. This makes it possible for students to opt for deepening in addition to broadening.
Late bloomers should also have the opportunity to participate in an honors track. It is undesirable that students can only participate in an honors program on the basis of their final exam results or first-year grades. De Vrije Student wants good students, even if they are in a later year, to make optimal use of their talent. This means that all study programs offer an appropriate honors program throughout the study. This can also be an interdisciplinary process for several study programs.
5.5 Awarding an extra distinction
The Free Student thinks it is a nice gesture if the university puts extra spotlight on students who get good grades, but are not eligible for cum laude. In these cases, the university can award the judicium with pleasure. For example, all students who have achieved an average higher than 7.5 can graduate with pleasure. At a number of universities, such as Tilburg University, and at our own Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, it is already possible for students to receive this degree upon graduation. The advantage of the judicium with pleasure is that it does not cause inflation to cum laude schemes, while students receive justified appreciation. The judicium will also provide stress relief for some students. Utrecht University currently has strict regulations regarding Cum Laude. For example, the figures from the first year are included, while this is not the case at other universities. A judicium with pleasure ensures that late bloomers will also be rewarded for their work.
In 2020, De Vrije Student submitted a proposal to have the designation 'with pleasure' included in the Education and Examination Regulations (OER). At the time, this proposal could not count on a council majority, but De Vrije Student will continue to strive to recognize and appreciate students who have not obtained cum laude, but have achieved a strong academic performance.
5.6 For serious employee participation
De Vrije Student attaches great importance to the professionalism of the participation bodies, particularly in the University Council. The majority of our candidates have experience in a management position and have proven to be able to handle a political field, the resulting responsibility and the hectic working days. That is not self-evident in the council. The Free Student therefore hopes to win seats on the council and to contribute to the further professionalisation of the university council. A considerable amount of professionalization has already been made in a year, but there is still room for improvement.
Transparent employee participation
It is important for students to be able to reach the representative advisory bodies when discussing matters that concern them within the university. To do this, they must have access to information on current issues and the representative advisory bodies. Currently, students can access the documents of the participation bodies via the participation team site. However, this is not known to most students. De Vrije Student advocates accessible employee participation. This also includes clear reporting about the available channels of the participation to the student.
De Vrije Student argues that the results of the caracal evaluations can be viewed by everyone at Utrecht University. Having insight into the caracal evaluations can help students choose and prepare for a new course, encourage lecturers to do something with the evaluations and help the university to address bottlenecks within programs and the university as an organ.