Critical Students at 21st General Assembly Elect the AUCSA Board of 2015-2016

By Tamar Bot and Ivana Solar

— On Monday May 18th, the new AUCSA board was elected at the 21st General Assembly. After three hours of personal statements, critical questions, bingo games and counting votes, the six new board members were announced. As of next academic year, Floris Cobben (chair), Tim Moolhuijsen (secretary), Stefanie Berendsen (treasurer), Sezgi Iyibilir (Committee Affairs Officer), Jerome Mies (Committee Affairs Officer) and Steffan Oberman (Commitee Affairs Officer) will represent AUC students in the Student Association.

The GA was attended by 190 students. Candidates Iyibilir and Langerveld both noted that, although the common room was full, the turnout was relatively low considering the size of the student body.

Current AUCSA chair, Jesse Vullinghs, opened the GA. Three third-year students – Aram Zegerius, Michael Vermeer and Sanna McGregor – were proposed as honorary members of the AUCSA for their outstanding contributions to AUCSA and the AUC community. After Vullinghs handed out the certificates to these students, he himself was proposed to be an honorary member by his fellow AUCSA board members, to his surprise. AUCSA secretary Esther Baar, who proposed this, struggled to hold back tears.

All candidates gave a short final statement in which they explained their main platforms for the AUCSA. Cobben and Langerveld, both running for chair, both emphasized their focus on transparency. Langerveld, however, emphasized his love for the AUC community and his desire to give back to it, whereas Cobben put the focus of his speech on improving the transition period for committees.

Secretary candidates Quinta Dijk and Moolhuijsen also named transparency as their main focus. The excessive mention of transparency by the majority of the candidates did not go unnoticed, and when a student in the audience asked Dijk whether she had any other points of focus, she said: “No offense to any of the other candidates, but I’m the only one who has made my point my point.”

Berendsen was the only candidate running for treasurer. “The whole election period has been quite lonely,” she said with a smile. However, students did have the possibility to abstain and, in this way, vote against her. If the majority of voters would abstain, new candidates would have had to run for the position of treasurer.

Five candidates ran for the three available CAO positions. Thomas Litan gave a new meaning to the abbreviation CAO: “committed, approachable, open.” A member of the audience asked about his failing to effectively organize the chess competition at the UCSRN tournament, Litan replied that he needed to make improvements next year.

Iyibilir wished for a close working relationship with the committees and smaller committees. She assured voters she was suitable for the job, saying: “I admit I haven’t been very active within the AUC community, but I want to change this drastically. I can do this, have trust in me, thank you.”

A speech which stood out for its rhetoric was given by Oberman, who comically used a Confucius quote: “The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.” He got the loudest applause of the whole evening and was jokingly asked where he acquired his public speaking skills by a student in the audience. “All natural,” he replied.

Mies focused on his experience as a board member on three committees. “I know how committees work, which is what the other candidates miss,” he said. A student in the audience asked him about his plans for going abroad in the next academic year. Mies said that even though he understood this is not an optimal condition for an AUCSA board member, he believed him leaving would not be as detrimental as the last cases (the last two AUCSA chairs resigned halfway through the academic year), as they would have time to prepare a proper transition.

CAO candidate Kelly Streekstra, a second-year currently on exchange at Quest University in Canada, gave her statement in a video and answered questions via a live Skype session (Streekstra was only added as a CAO candidate earlier in the GA, after the playing of a video she sent in with her proposed motion to run for a board position, which was approved.) She said her “excessive amounts of energy” would be of use for her as a CAO. However, some audience members were critical of Streekstra being abroad. When confronted with the fact she wouldn’t be able to participate in the transition period, Streekstra promised she would return before August to organize the introduction week, one of AUCSA’s main responsibilities.

After all the candidates gave their final statements, the election committee consisting of Anna Holm Heide, Camiel Wijffels and Job Zegers gave their advice for the new AUCSA Board. Strikingly, even though the election committee’s guidelines stated they would generally not recommend candidates who would go on exchange for part of their term, they still proposed Mies as one of three CAOs. Besides Mies, they recommended Cobben for chair, Moolhuijsen for secretary, Berendsen for treasurer and Oberman and Iyibilir as the other two CAOs. Because of the last-minute addition of Streekstra, they were not able to take her candidacy into account in their recommendation.

“I was underwhelmed by their public speaking skills,” said Lance Bosch, a first-year student. He added that he felt the candidates were all very qualified, but that they didn’t convey just how qualified they actually were. To him, Oberman’s speech stood out most. “He took you on a journey in that one minute. That takes skill and experience. And it’s a parameter for how you’re going to do the rest of the year,” Bosch said.

While the votes were being counted, Baar hosted the GA Bingo. Jamming to songs of Taylor Swift, students played to win prizes such as a crate of beer and an official AUC hoodie.

Once the bingo games were over, the common room was silenced and the announcement everyone was waiting for sounded: “the votes have been counted, the results are in.”

The new board members were announced by position. The elected chair was Floris Cobben who won with 61% of the votes; secretary Tim Moolhuijsen got 59% of the votes, treasurer Stefanie Berendsen had 86% of the voters voting in favour; and the three CAOs Steffan Oberman, Sezgi Iyibilir and Jerome Mies got 82%, 68% and 72% of the votes, respectively.

The new board members were excited about their new positions and duties. New chair Cobben said: “Today I wanted to tell everybody that I realize just how much work this position is going to take.” Between being congratulated by his friends, he expressed his enthusiasm to take on the challenge and said: “I know I’m ready to do it.”

Vullinghs said he was convinced the new members would fulfill their respective roles within the board. “They will go through a very thorough transition period for the whole of June which will start during the final weekend of May,” said Vullinghs. “For four weeks we will really guide them and show them the details of what their new positions entail.” After being confronted with the controversial topic of the election of Mies as CAO, Vullinghs said Mies’ experience as a committee member is crucial to his job within the board, and Vullinghs is confident that, with the prior knowledge of Mies’ departure to study abroad, his replacement will not be an issue.

The board will begin its duties starting next week, when they will help assemble the goodie bags for the finals. The formal transition in June will hopefully prepare the newly elected members for an exciting and fruitful year in the AUCSA board.

The Herring will publish in-depth interviews with the current and new AUCSA boards later this week.

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