Upcoming elections for the UCU Council

The support staff and faculty members of the College Council are elected for a two year period. This summer, the term of the current Council members expires. Local democracy only works if there is broad participation. Don’t remain sidelined, the election committee urges you to consider ‘running for office’. UCU Communications talked to Tatiana Bruni, Markha Valenta and Diana Odier-Contreras Garduno, three of the current members, about why they joined the Council, how they make a difference, and why people should consider joining the team. 

Why did you join the UC Council?

Tatiana (UCU Council Chair): “I come from a family where political engagement and the trade union was very important. I always heard my parents talk about their experience representing others. So to me, it is quite natural. I have represented students and employers in several councils over the years.”

Markha “When I started in the fall of 2019 I applied to join the UC Council right away. At a previous job I learned that the experiences of the staff and students are very fundamentally shaped by the decisions that are made within the organization. I also thought it was a great way to get to know more people outside of my track and working group."

Diana: “At the very beginning my main interest in joining the Council was to understand how decision making takes place at our college as well as to contribute to any initiative aimed at raising awareness about labour rights and addressing work pressure. Soon after I joined the Council, I just really fell in love with the opportunity it brings to work together with the students towards common goals. Working with students has been refreshing and inspiring.”

I just really fell in love with the opportunity it brings to work together with the students towards common goals. Working with students has been refreshing and inspiring.

Do you feel you can make a difference?

Markha: “We bring things to the table that MT hasn’t thought about. I think in that fashion we really do make a difference. We are a voice and we channel issues, concerns, sensibilities that otherwise are less present in College Hall at the moment. And that is where very key fundamental decisions are being made. About finances, about curriculum, about rules and regulations. About how to deal with sensitive issues, from sexual violence and racism to student teacher conflicts.”

Diana: “As a Council, we are definitely able to influence decision making. We are constantly in dialogue with the MT and other different bodies across UCU."

What are the main challenges you have faced as a member of the Council?

Tatiana: “For me, the biggest challenge is representing a group of people even when something is not representing you as an individual. But that is also the beauty of the work. You get to understand all these different perspectives and then you think 'okay, what would be the best option?'.
Diana: “We represent all staff and students, and we work towards addressing concerns and needs of both students and of staff. It can be challenging to navigate that as representatives but it is always possible to find common grounds and work as a team towards common goals. I think that one of the big successes of the Council is that we find a way to really speak with one voice.”

Tatiana: “We never had a situation where we had to vote because we couldn’t come to a shared decision.”

I think that one of the big successes of the Council is that we find a way to really speak with one voice.

What sort of topics are being discussed at the council?

Markha: “There is a number of general recurring issues. For example, each semester we review the evaluations of the courses and we produce a report on the basis of those reviews. Another subject is the place and visibility of the sciences at UCU and in the curriculum. We also discuss whether or not the financing of UCU is adequate. This also ties into the fact that long distance decisions made at the UU can have great consequences for UCU, because we are quite small relative to other faculties. Furthermore we discuss UCU’s diversity policies, the strategic plan, the way hours are allocated to teachers. It is tremendously varied, which makes it very interesting.”

Diana: “ One of the things that was put forward recently by the students was the strict approach towards late course withdrawals. There are very few reason students can drop a course.”

Markha: “This issue will be on the agenda of a new committee tasked with reviewing work pressure amongst students. A work pressure report for faculty and support staff has just been presented. Now, there will also be one for students. This matter of course withdrawal is often connected to students trying to manage work pressure.”

Why should people consider joining the UC Council?

Markha: “The UC Council is quite unique within the Dutch system. It combines the tasks of representing student and faculty interest and tasks that have to do with program quality. This way we are really engaging with UCU as an organic whole, as an entity that thinks about staff and student well-being in relation to academic quality and academic innovation. It's very rich experience."

Diana: “Imagine our beloved UCU without a body able to channel the concerns of the staff and the students. Please make use of the opportunity to represent the different voices of our community and join the Council!”

Markha: “Adding to Diana. Not only do we have a voice, but we have a management team that is very interested in that voice. We have a very effective balance, between having different perspectives (between management on the one hand and students/support staff/faculty members on the other) but also having a very good working relation. I feel like the Management team really has great respect for the Council, even as the Council very much respects the hard work and difficult decisions of the Management. So if you are interested in being a part of the voice; this is a great moment to do that."

Interested staff can submit their candidacy between 7th March and 6th April. Elections will be held between 8th and 10th May.

The UCU Council, in short:
The UCU Council represents students, support staff and faculty members on a wide-ranging and comprehensive set of matters concerning UCU. Its activities include advising the Dean on the making and implementation of UCU policies; engaging with the Director of Education on a host of issues; monitoring the quality of the UCU curriculum program; reviewing the budget and discussing select elements with the administration; putting key UCU issues on the administrative agenda; and ensuring the best interests of the students, support staff and faculty members.

The University College Utrecht Council is a combination of the Degree Program Advisory Committee (DPAC) and the Faculty Council (FC). Within the UU, these bodies are traditionally separated. In the case of UCU, the UCU Council merges these two governing bodies. As at other institutions where such combinations can be found, this ensures the Council will have sufficient members. At the same time, it means that all members – students, support staff and faculty – can address all issues in a fashion that reflects the practical relation between academic vision, pedagogic quality, institutional organization and community members’ formal well-being and rights.