The results of Student Council elections were released earlier today and surprise, surprise – the Student Council will look much the same in 2022/2023. The 12 seats of the Student Council will be divided between three parties: VeSte (United Students, dutch: Verenigde Studenten), S&I (Sustainability & Integration), and CSF (Christian Student Party).
VeSte gained an additional seat in these elections, giving it 8 in total for the first time in six years, while S&I maintained 3 seats, and CSF lost a seat, with only 1 remaining. Do these results really represent Wageningen students and their political leanings; can we say that the Student Council is representative? I’ll let you make up your mind after this.
Your Student Council for 2022/2023
VeSte, the reigning and future largest political party, was historically formed to represent the interests of the 3 largest (99.999999% Dutch) student associations of Wageningen: Franciscus, SSR, and Ceres. With the majority of the candidates on their list also being big figures in these study associations, it’s safe to assume that mostly Dutch students voted for VeSte. S&I, on the other hand, tends to be associated with international students, and the vast majority of the candidates on their list were international too. S&I received 27,5% of the votes. This corresponds loosely to the 23% international student population of WUR and indicates that a number of Dutch students voted for S&I also.
In general, only 35,28% of students voted in the elections. Be it Dutch or international students, should we be doing better at appreciating the power of voting and making use of the small democratic power that we have? Perhaps the parties’ campaigning efforts weren’t enough to give the elections sufficient visibility, or the Student Council isn’t present enough in general.
It was however a busy week leading up to the elections, as campus turned into a little battlefield for the 3 competing parties. It seems S&I chose the smooth approach, appealing to the quiet introverts and artsy students of Wageningen, who could come and relax on their beanbags and paint tote bags next to some plants, because who doesn’t need a tenth tote bag – that’s the definition of sustainability, no? VeSte did their constituents proud by handing out free cotton candy and building a tower of beer crates for all to see. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of those crates came from a night at Ceres. CSF settled for leaving leaflets around campus and defending that they do not only represent Christian students on social media. There was of course some good ol’ drama during the elections too, as an analysis video of the Student Council debates was censored.
If you’re reading this and you voted for the Student Council elections, can you tell me in full consciousness that you voted in an informedway, knowing what each of the 3 parties stands for and what they promised to focus on during their mandate? I think not. It seems that most people vote for their friends in these elections, or for the friend of their friend, or the friend of their friend of their friend. Fernando Gabriel, current member of the Student Council (S&I) noted that only a handful of students approached him to understand what his and other parties stand for.
Are the Student Council elections a democratic event, or simply a popularity contest? Should we be taking the elections more seriously, and aiming for the Student Council to be more than parties made up of our friends? And should we not aim for a Wageningen world in which there are more than 3 political parties which cross the Dutch/international student divide?