By Konstantin Kirilov
— As the spring semester draws to a close, AUC’s student committees have begun their campaigns for prospective members. Third-year students are graduating, while others no longer have the time to contribute, and so the race is on to fill the required positions. And while many enjoy the variety of extracurricular activities offered, some members of the community have voiced concern over the number of student associations and the application process itself.
“I think there is a bit too much effort to link normal social past-times to university,” said Josh Harte, a third-year student about to graduate. “I have to admit that I find the idea of, for example, a gaming committee, to be pretty superfluous.”
Since its founding in 2009, AUC has consistently emphasized the importance of campus life for creating a close-knit community. The Student Association (AUCSA), which acts as the umbrella organization for committees, calls them “the core of ( … ) social life” on their website. As of the end of this school year, its roster is made up of 28 different groups, offering everything from a student-run magazine to weekly gaming nights. Some are geared towards an event that occurs once a year, such as the annual Dormfest, or the academic journal InPrint.
Students interested in setting up their own committee first need to make sure it fits the prerequisites. No group with a similar purpose should exist, and according to the official proposal form, it should “serve the interests of a significant part of the student population”. The final decision as to what is significant enough, however, ultimately rests with the AUCSA board. “The consideration of accepting committees is fairly complicated,” said current AUCSA Chair Jesse Vullinghs, when asked to describe the process. “There are several guidelines they have to adhere to ( … ) and that is also the basis on which we evaluate the proposals”.
The application proposal itself fits on less than a page and consists of just six questions, one of them being the committee’s eventual name. The protocols also include proposals for the three main positions (Chair, Secretary, Treasurer), the committee’s purpose and potential contribution to AUC, as well as an indication of how many people might be interested in the events organized by the group. Luca van Bambost, current chair of AUC’s Literary Society, found it to be very straightforward. “The applying [sic] process was quite easy for us, especially since there wasn’t a literary committee yet. Soon after sending the proposal we had a meeting with the board, they approved it, and that was that,” he explained.
With a student body of roughly 900, AUC currently has an average of one committee per 32 students. A quick comparison with three of its sister colleges found similar proportions. University College Utrecht lead the pack with a total of 40 registered committees, averaging one per 19 students, while UCR (Middleburg) was a close second with 27 committees, about one per 21 students. University College Maastricht came closer to AUC’s numbers, with 17 associations for a total of about 600 students, or one per 35. Considering that every board has at least 3-5 student members on it, these numbers will, in fact, turn out to be lower.
Even with this seemingly endless supply of pursuits at hand, students did not always find something to fit their tastes. “Very often it feels like the same thing over and over again. A few committees seem more like hobby clubs than anything else,” said Leila Atmowihardjo, a former AUC student who graduated last semester. Josh Harte shared her sentiments, while arguing that there is a lot happening on campus, but outside the AUCSA umbrella. “The two AUC initiatives which I have found most beneficial for the community have been Taste Before You Waste and Organic Campus, neither of which have ever received AUC funding,” he added.
During the 2013-14 academic year, the university’s associations and teams spent a total of €97.114,86 and registered an income of €55.069,17. Although committees are not obligated to register an income, the discrepancy was mentioned during the recent student elections, and members of the 2015-16 AUCSA board made assurances that they are already working on it. A decision had previously been made to add an additional Committee Affairs Officer (CAO) for the upcoming school year, as the amount of work was just too much. “I think we have more than enough committees,” said Jerome Mies, a second-year February starter who will be one of the board’s three new CAOs. “There should be more focus on the ones we have already, so instead of creating a new committee, maybe people can look for collaboration with existing ones.” Steffan Oberman, a first-year student and also a future CAO, agreed with Mies, adding that while AUCSA members are free to propose any group, it should be explicitly different from existing ones. In fact, one of the first orders of business for the new board will be to take a closer look at the application process. “We believe the setting up of new committees could be a little more ( … ) stringent and based on the committee actually having a lot of added value to the AUC community,” Oberman said.
The Herring could not confirm whether any committees were rejected this past academic year, or indeed, in any of the years before. None of the students and Chairs who were interviewed had any knowledge of such occurrences, and as of the time of publication no one from AUCSA had such information. It remains to be seen to what extent the new AUCSA board will revise the application process, and whether a reshuffling of the current student committees is in the works.