By Madelief van Dongen
Disclaimer: As a result of anonymity issues, edits to this story have been made after publication.
— When a bunch of students decided to throw a party in their decorated common room last year, they did not expect it to lead to a new function as DUWO ambassador.
Hidde Griek, second-year Humanities major, and Noah van Genuchten, second-year Social Science major, were penalised by AUC after their dorm party last October got out of hand. What started off as thirty hours of community service transformed into a restructure of the Tenants Association (TA). Griek and van Genuchten decided to take the opportunity to improve communication between AUC management, students and the housing provider DUWO.
The TA is the association that represents AUC students to its landlord, DUWO. There is always one Student Council (AUCSC) member involved. Apart from that, the TA used to be unstructured and there has never been an application process. From now on, Van Genuchten and Griek will be co-chairing the association. “We think it is important and we simply like to do it,” van Genuchten said. “So, we decided to take the entire reformation of the TA upon ourselves.” They want to apply a board format, create new positions and open applications soon.
Van Genuchten and Griek got involved in the project after hosting one of the two parties that led to vandalism in the dorms during the infamous weekend of October 13, 2017. The festivities caused disturbances such as tossed shopping carts on the stairs and splashed ketchup on the walls. Griek, Genuchten and another second-year student, who does not want to be identified, were held responsible for the vandalism.
AUC imposed a punishment, which entailed thirty hours of giving back to the community by enhancing living conditions in the dorms. Griek and Van Genuchten liked the project and decided to extend it by reshaping the TA entirely. The third student will not fulfil more than the mandatory thirty hours due to an exchange semester.
Adele Beinaraviciute, second year Social Science major, chose the TA as one of her floating tasks within AUCSC and will therefore be part of the restructured organization too. “Previous years it has been incredibly difficult to find people to join,” she said. “The TA wasn’t really active. So, we [AUCSC] took this opportunity with both hands.”
The reason why it’s hard to find TA members can be sought in the bad relationship between DUWO and the students. “DUWO is often perceived as the big, angry landlord,” Griek said, “but a lot is possible if you frame your concerns or questions correctly.” Van Genuchten thinks it’s a matter of giving-and-taking. “We can ask DUWO to fix the Wi-Fi, the cold water or the elevators, as long as we make sure that we keep the dorms clean ourselves.”
Adel El-Sabagh, DUWO’s housekeeper in the residences, recognizes the hostility against DUWO. “I don’t know how it happened,” he said, “but a big, fat wall has been built between DUWO and AUC students.” He believes that personal communication and connection with the students is important to break down this wall again. “I am with you [the students] and with DUWO,” El-Sabagh said. “We’re not each other’s enemies.”
Beinaraviciute said one of the biggest problems is the lack of sense of belonging in the dorms. “Nobody takes care of the dorms,” she said. “They are dirty, dark, and empty, and have no personality. But, there are many ways to improve this and create a sense of ownership through ideas and projects.”
Van Genuchten and Griek have many ideas to improve the dorms. Mainly, they want to make them cleaner and greener. The two students aim to do so by, for instance, putting more cigarette bins in the courtyards. Other plans include the creation of an information leaflet to be put in every dorm, the organization of a TA Summer Sale with asylum status holders, and the installation of picnic tables in the courtyards.
El-Sabagh is happy with the enthusiasm, but also sceptical about the plans. “We used to have picnic tables,” he said, “but some were set on fire and others were thrown in the ditch.” Nevertheless, he is hopeful that Van Genuchten and Griek will do their best to break down the wall between DUWO and the students. “I hope that they will spread information among their fellow-students,” El-Sabagh said.
To make real change, however, El-Sabagh suggests emphasizing respect. “Most of the students are amazing,” he said. “But there is one small group that doesn’t show respect. If this can be changed, we can definitely cooperate.”
Photo Credits: Pangea
Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.