The Student Council: It’s all about having influence

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Voting for the 2014 RUC elections got underway yesterday. RUSK has interviewed representatives of the two student organisations about their key issues and more. First up is Student Council chairman Drude Rohde.

Studenterrådets formand er en travl kvinde  -  også når der er valgkamp. Foto: Studenterrådet.

The chairman of the Student Council is a busy lady – also during election campaigns. Photo: The Student Council.

We’re doing the interview on the first floor of the Student House in a room wafting with the sweet smell of brownies from the kitchen next door, where Student Council volunteers are preparing some 500 of the chocolatey goodies for tomorrow’s student democracy celebrations marking the opening of the 2014 RUC elections.

Student Council chairman Drude Rohde comes straight from a lecture and, after our interview, she will be going directly back to work on the campaign – and whatever else needs to be done. She is running for the RUC Board of Directors, and she also still has the ultimate responsibility for the many activities organised by the Student Council. Is it keeping her busy?

“Yes,” she replies firmly.

“This is more than a full-time job, for sure. I wouldn’t want to count the hours I put in.”

I know many students who don’t particularly want to be on campus because they find the place dull and uninspiring. That’s a shame, because this is where our academic environment is.

The RUC elections follow a period of already quite hectic activity, so there is not the usual feeling of the elections meaning more work. There have been study reforms, protests over cutbacks and, most recently, the government-ordered so-called “studies dimensioning”, which the Student Council, the National Union of Students in Denmark (DSF) and the umbrella student organisation ESB organised a large demonstration to protest against. But that does not mean the RUC elections have to take a back seat. Not at all.

“It’s all about having influence. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to talk to so many of the other students at RUC,” says Drude.

Click here to read the Student Council blogposts: One agreement: Three years of improvements

In fact, the election itself is one of the most important issues for the Student Council this year. The reason for handing out brownies is to deliver a very simple message: “Vote!” Their high hope here is to boost the voting percentage.

“Last year, we had a lower voting percentage than Afghanistan. We may have placed second among Danish universities in that – beaten only by CBS – but we need to drum up greater involvement,” she explains.

Eight key issues

The Student Council also has several political issues: eight to be exact. Drude stresses the three she finds the most important.

Studenterrådets valgplakat med alle kandidaterne. Foto: Studenterrådet.

The Student Council election poster and the eight candidates. Photo: The Student Council.

The first one is to rethink the group rooms on campus.

“They’re some of the dullest places on campus right now. The other day I had to explain to a couple of new students that none of the group rooms are any good. Obviously, group rooms should inspire students in their work, but white walls and institutional chairs just don’t do that.”

The solution is to put up posters and bring in wax candles, some colour and comfortable furniture: to show how it can be done, the Student Council intends to decorate a group room to these standards.

“I know many students who don’t particularly want to be on campus because they find the place dull and uninspiring. That’s a shame, because this is where our academic environment is. For obvious reasons, I come here quite a lot, but that also means I get twice as much counselling, because this is where you run into your own supervisor and other supervisors as well.

The second key issue Drude highlights is “Subject combinations that improve our academic skills”, as the Student Council slogan reads. This refers to the ongoing reform of combination studies; the aim is to help ensure that the purpose of the reform – lifting academic standards – is achieved.

“We want the combination subjects to be much more interconnected. It shouldn’t be left to the students alone to discover the links between two study subjects: the interconnectivity should be built in,” she explains.

Ridiculous flaw

And finally, there is her own most important issue: “Methodology teaching that makes sense”. Just mentioning it gets her started:

“I talk to a lot of new students who have no clue about how to write a project paper. Since working with projects is so central to what RUC is all about, the University should do more to give its students the right tools for it. It should also be made clear to the students why project work is so important at RUC. That would add meaning to the work,” she says.

“We also have to be better at linking projects to certain problems in society and specific challenges,” she adds, before firing off her closing remarks:

“When RUC graduates are asked if there’s anything they are lacking at RUC, many of them point to project management. But that’s ridiculous. It’s precisely what they teach us here. It’s just that we fail to pick up on the fact that that’s exactly what they are teaching us.”

Drude and the many Student Council volunteers plan to spend the next week or so raising awareness of these three key issues – along with the five others we didn’t have room for in this article. They will be handing out flyers; they will be hanging up posters and placards; and they will man their “election hut” in the canteen, next to that of their opponents from Frit Forum.

Click here to read more about the Student Council’s key issues on their website.

This is where each of the two organisations will do everything they can to distinguish themselves from each other. Due to a lack of interest in previous years, they will not be arranging any debates this year. Most of us have heard about one particular issue where they really take different stands. The Student Council is fighting for a single vibrant campus environment at Trekroner, where the University itself is based, whereas Frit Forum are fighting for a vibrant campus environment both on campus and in Copenhagen, which is where most RUC students live.

Purely student politics

Drude also points to the fact that Frit Forum has strong ties to the Social Democratic Party, while the Student Council is completely independent of party politics.

Our only fight is for basic student rights, and in that struggle we represent the entire political spectrum,” she declares.

In other words, the Student Council is more like a trade union. The organisation is a member of DSF, the national student union, which is in turn is a member of the umbrella organisation ESB.

Click here to read Frit Forum’s election programme

Lastly, the incumbent chairman points to the differences in the ways in which the two student organisations are organised:

“We believe we have closer ties to Hum (Humanities), HumTech (Humanities and Technology) and NatSci (Natural sciences). We include students from all programmes.”

A few years ago, we had a third student organisation, called Frie Studerende. Do you think there should be more political voices in the debate?

“Having three student organisations taught us a lot. It made us develop and grow. Frie Studerende was founded because a group of students felt that the organisations of the time weren’t doing enough. Then they dissolved the organisation again because they felt we had adopted their programme. The main thing for me is that we can agree to fight for what the students want and need. As long as we can do that, it doesn’t matter whether there are one, two, three, seven or seventeen student organisations.

Voting in the RUC elections closes on Wednesday, 29 October, at 12:00 noon. You can vote here.

Election facts

Student Council candidates

For the University Board of Directors

  • Drude Rohde
  • Ask Gudmundsen

For the Academic Council

  • Jacob Jørgensen
  • Maria Stein Knudsen
  • Morten Levinsky Thorsbo
  • Natali Rohde
  • Signe Kaptain
  • Therese Cederberg Nielsen

Click here for more information

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