The UCSA’s role in the UCSRN and the Prospects for Inter-UC Cooperation
By Folke Eikmeier
Ever wondered which UC’s student organization has the fastest typing secretary? You’ll find out at the second Inter-UC championship, held May 5th and 6th at UCU. With more than 500 UC students expected to compete in sports, arts, music and beer chugging, this will be the largest event so far organized by the University College Student Representation Netherlands (UCSRN).
Never mind the uninspiring name: The UCSRN has been active since its foundation in 2010. The boards of all participating organizations met at summits in Maastricht and Amsterdam. Students met at the Dean Debate in The Hague and at a hockey match, UCU vs. AUC, in Amsterdam a few weeks ago. Has cooperation already reached its limits or can we expect the UCSRN to grow in the future? What are the obstacles for increased Inter-UC cooperation? And what is the current role of the UCSA in the UCSRN?
“The UCSA is like a mother ship or a Big Brother,” ASC Academic Affairs Officer Omri Preiss said. “LUC and AUC pretty much copied the UCSA statutes and policy manual.” As the student organization of the oldest and the most developed University College, the USCA frequently gives advice to the other UCs. Hot-topics for information requests include how to operate the Bar, board transitions and the auditing team.
“At AUC everyone in the board takes four courses,” UC third year and Chair of the UCSRN Nathalie van Haaren said. “They asked us how it works at UCU and want to get course reduction as well.”
She thinks the role of the UCSA in the UCSRN is larger this year because a UCU student is the Chair. “Next year nobody from the UCSA will be chair because of a rotating system. If no UC student applies for secretary we’ll just be a participant then,” she said.
UCU also profits from cooperation. During last year’s ASIC-to-ASC reforms a model similar to that at Roosevelt Academy was adopted. “At AUC they have the same student council experiences,” Preiss said. “We talked about their and our GAs. This helps us a lot in our job.”
UCSA chair Romain Bruyère thinks the board learns from the different models of student organization and their methods. “In other colleges they don’t inform students with a daily update but with a weekly newsletter.”
It seems that regardless of the events at this point, mostly UCSA and ASC board members make use of the inter-UC cooperation. “If we learn from cooperation we pass this on to the student body,” Bruyère said. “We try to organize events everyone can enjoy.”
Committees like SportsCo or DebateCo have great opportunities for competing against other UCs. For other committees, like PoliticsCo, this is different. “I don’t even know if there’s another PoliticsCo,” PoliticsCo Chair Anne-Marie Spermon said. “Our CAO never talks to us about cooperation.”
So far events with other UCs are still limited in size. Only 50 UC students could participate at the Dean Debate which set an extra step towards defining a common identity and tackling common problems for the UCs.
A long term goal is to develop the UCSRN into a strong representation of Liberal Arts and Sciences education towards the Dutch Ministry of Education. “All UC students can now become a more serious body and start promoting what’s useful for them,” Preiss said. “That’s important now that honors colleges can increase their tuition.”
Regardless of these plans, the UCSRN is not an actual representative organization. It does not have legal powers. “All boards of student organizations are legally responsible for their own actions,” Preiss said. “It doesn’t make sense for them to give power to an external body.”
Van Haaren thinks that creating an actual representation would be difficult, since such a body would require their own budget. It would also complicate the structure of all the different organizations and their boards. “Not all organizations are the same: in Maastricht UC students don’t automatically become members of their student organization Universalis. They have to recruit members,” Van Haaren said.
According to her, the largest obstacle to increased cooperation is the lack of dedication and professionalism in some of the participating boards. “We’re all students and have different functions and courses next to the UCSRN,” she said. “Sometimes we have to make new team members aware of the professionalism that has been going on. In some boards the transition is not yet formalized.”
Another obstacle is the geographical distance of RA and UCM, located in the west and south of the Netherlands. “This makes it difficult for their members to take part in events and for their board to function in the UCSRN,” van Haaren said. “I can now quickly go to Amsterdam for a meeting with the UCSRN secretary.”
In this sense Utrecht has an advantage, being located right in the center of the country. This is one of the reasons why the second UC Championship will once again take place in Utrecht. “We said: ‘Let’s have it somewhere else this year,’” Preiss said. “They said: ‘Let’s have it in Utrecht.’ We’re just lucky to have all the campus facilities.”
While last year the UCSA paid for the Championship, this year every board pays at least 1000 Euros. The exception is UCM, which because of its different membership structure doesn’t have enough funds. The UCSA and the AUCSA help out with an additional 500 Euros. “We didn’t want the event to flop just because one college didn’t have enough money,” Bruyère said. “It’s in everybody’s interest to meet new people.”
Preiss hopes championships like this will continue in the future. “All new UCs are now in a developing process. I hope they grow and we can see what our specialties are, so we don’t compete but work together. UCU students could go to AUC for nice summer courses.”
Bruyère agrees: “I hope funny traditions and healthy rivalry between the UCs can emerge; there could be an Inter-UC football league.”
To organize more than three big events a year would be difficult, van Haaren thinks. Yet she hopes contacts will increase through smaller tournaments with sports, debate or Model United Nations. “Once we’re alumni, we will all have the same diploma with ‘Liberal Arts & Sciences’ on it.”