Party SAM: ‘Everyone has a voice with us’

The University Council elections are coming up again. Between April 28 and 30, Tilburg University students can vote for the candidates of student parties SAM and Front. For one year, they will represent the students in the Council. But what do SAM and Front actually stand for, and what do they want to achieve next year? SAM will do even more for the vulnerable student. ‘Well-being and study must go hand in hand for this group.’

Student Party SAM with leading candidate Noortje Zegers (l) and chair Veronique Coenen. Fotography:Ton Toemen

Future Master’s student in Law and current chair of SAM, Veronique Coenen, will step down as student representative in the University Council after the elections. She has full confidence in her successor Noortje Zegers, fourth-year student in Psychology and this year elected as Party SAM’s leading candidate.

With Univers, they look back on this special participation year dominated by the Covid-19 virus and look ahead to the coming year. “The priority is and will continue to be the quality of education.”

Veronique, how have you experienced the past year as SAM’s chair?

Veronique: “Obviously, this was an eventful year. It turned out completely different from what we had expected, so many of our plans did not materialize or only to a lesser extent. At the beginning of the crisis, we thought that a lot would still be possible and that there would be an upward trend, but that was not the case. Instead, we ended up in a severe lockdown.

“I think it’s great that we all switched from physical to digital education so quickly. It was all hands on deck and everyone in the university did their utmost to make this switch.

“Nevertheless, this has made us realize that far-reaching digitalization also has disadvantages. In particular, it has an impact on the well-being of students. Due to a lack of social contact and interaction with fellow students and lecturers, students can start to feel lonely. A digital university, as we currently know it, is therefore not our goal.”

What has SAM accomplished in the past year?

Veronique: “One of our main initiatives submitted in the past year has been to create a designated general practitioner for Tilburg University students.

“The university has a good team of psychologists and counsellors ready to help students with (mild) mental symptoms, but it falls short when there are students with more serious problems. This group is referred and advised to seek external help while for many it is hard to find.

“This is mainly due to the fact that the GP practices are full and there are huge waiting lists. In addition, it is extra difficult for international students to find a suitable general practitioner because, for this group, there is not a concrete point they can go to.

“Dutch students can often still go to their parents’ GP, but this is not the case for international students. We hope to remedy this problem with a specially designated student general practitioner.”

What will SAM be working on next year?

Noortje: “Our main pillar is the quality of education. Of course, we hope to emerge from the crisis soon, but since this is still uncertain, we want to focus on optimizing digital education. Now, much is left to the lecturer and each lecturer uses his or her own method.

“This exposes the student to all kinds of different ways of digital education. As SAM, we would like to have one clear standard because that makes it more manageable for everyone.

“Another item that is high on our agenda is the well-being of students. I myself have had mental problems halfway through my studies, so I know how nice it is to be well taken care of and supported. More and easily accessible student psychologists are therefore of great importance.

“We do not lose sight of other vulnerable students such as students with disabilities either. With the help of hybrid education, among other things, we want to ensure that well-being and studying go hand in hand for this group.”

Why is participation important?

Veronique: “The students within the participation body can have an amazing amount of influence on the university policies. I say amazing because the average student is often unaware of this.

“Nevertheless, our voice is explicitly heard by the Executive Board and we have the right of initiative as student parties. This means that we can submit our own ideas, which must then be responded to within three months. Changes in the student’s interest go a lot faster this way.”

Noortje: “However, it is unfortunate that many students do not know the participation body well and have no awareness of the influence it can have on the course of the university. This makes voting less attractive. Students need to realize that their votes can actually mean something.”

And finally, why should all students vote for Party SAM in the last week of April?

Noortje: “SAM is committed to all students and not one specific group in particular. This is reflected on our diverse list where every type of student is represented. Regardless of your position in student life, everyone has a voice with us.”

Also read: Party Front: “We’re here for the active student”

Translated by Language Center, Riet Bettonviel

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