By Ties Gijzel
— On Wednesday evening April 22nd, the event Voices of AUC took place at AUCafé. Voices of AUC was organized by a team of 11 AUC students and attracted more than 50 students, staff and management. The participants brainstormed about the future of the university, using a new form of round-table discussion called G1000. The evening’s outcome will be drafted into a report that summarizes the participants’ ideas of AUC’s strengths and weaknesses, which will in turn be handed to the newly arriving dean.
The evening was divided into three stages, each contributing to the development of tangible ideas, guided by a mediator. In the first round, “Dreaming,” every participant tried to envision AUC and the community as they would like it to be. The second round, “Thinking,” functioned to turn the dreams into concrete ideas, without taking into account their practicality. In the final “Doing” round, participants had to come up with actual practical solutions.
After each round, all participants switched tables and continued the discussion in a new setting. This way, more people with different AUC backgrounds shared their view on each other’s ideas. Eventually the findings in the first round, such as ‘learning how to speak a new language fluently’ and ‘more socio-economic diversity’, were narrowed down to more concrete wishes like ‘language courses during the normal semesters’ and ‘send AUC ambassadors abroad’.
When discussing where AUC could improve, almost all groups agreed on certain issues. Chiefly, participants criticized the lack of socio-economic diversity, the class attendance policy, and argued for more interdisciplinary exchange between majors. Dr. Michiel van Drunen, Head of Studies, Sciences, illustrated the call for more academic diversity by stating that the role of science could be more interwoven with the other fields of study.
On the other hand, participants also indicated in what areas AUC is performing well, such as the university’s small classes, its cultural diversity and freedom to explore one’s study direction.
Michael Vermeer, a third year AUC student who came up with the idea of organizing a G1000 for AUC, believes that the concept can help breaking what he calls “a political impasse,” where people stop voting because they lose connection with their representatives. “Platforms like the G1000 aim to encourage bottom up participation,” Vermeer said. “And with Voices of AUC we have adapted a similar system to AUC.”
Aqsa Hussain, a second year AUC student and member of AUC’s student council, was surprised by the type of people that showed up. “This new event appeals to students’ interest as it’s not repetitive,” Hussain stated. “Most people here weren’t present at the General Assembly.”
Pim Verkleij, a third year student, illustrated Hussain’s point. “I haven’t really attended other AUC related events, except for Solace parties maybe,” he said. “But AUC Voices is the first event where I can actually do something with my opinion.”
In addition to the more than 40 students, eight teachers participated. Dr. Michael McAssey, a BRMS teacher at AUC, was interested in seeing what people’s concerns were about the institution. “Now [that] we’re in a transition into a new leadership, it’s good to be able to express what we think they need to know about us,” he said.
According to Marloes Vlind, a VU sociologist who attended the event for research purposes, the real strength of a G1000 round table discussion lies in providing dialogue. “A G1000 offers a platform of communication between people that normally aren’t in contact with each other,” Vlind said. “It is commonly used to open a discussion between public servants and civilians – this way public servants aren’t the only experts anymore.”
However, the extent to which a G1000 will be effective will depend on what steps are taken after the event. “The […] participants do not necessarily represent the entire community,” Vlind said. “During the current meeting, agreements should be made and meetings should be scheduled between all parties involved. Otherwise the initiative would only have resulted in a nice evening.”
Vermeer is busy ensuring that the outcomes of this night will be implemented. As the event came to an end, he asked the most enthusiastic students to draft a report. “The AUC Student Council will supervise this small group of students and then present the report to the next dean,” Vermeer added.